Risk-Taking Mission: Poverty


PEORIA -- Bishop Gregory V. Palmer challenged the Illinois Great Rivers Conference to answer the question of the Rich Young Ruler, "What one thing I lack?" in the first of three Morning Manna devotionals during Annual Conference.

"Every moment we breathe, we get to answer that question," Palmer said. "If Jesus says to The United Methodist Church, to westernized Christians, 'you will find your life by connecting with the margins among the poor...or you can have your life as it is.' What would you choose?"

Palmer said the core of the story of the Rich Young Ruler, which appears in all three synoptic Gospels, is the question: "What must I do to have eternal life?" "In the 21st century, we might ask, 'What must I do to have a meaningful life? If I can just find the one right thing, what button must I push?"

After a review of the commandments, Bishop Palmer said the Rich Young Ruler had the courage and "takes the risk of asking, 'Is there anything I lack?'"

"If you really want to be perfect...since you brought it up...could it be that you are out of right relationship with your possessions, and so out of relationship with your neighbor?" Palmer posed as a paraphrase. "Asking the right question is often more important than having the right answers."

While some Biblical scholars debate whether Jesus' statement is hyperbole, Palmer said the response was of "a jaw-dropping moment that took the wind out of the sails."

"Jesus is not in the business of giving us a hopeless hard time but Jesus is in the business of shaping us into his likeness," Palmer said. "And you most often find Jesus with the poor and the marginalized."

"Jesus is waiting for us in our westernized world to ask, 'What do you want me to do?'" Palmer said. "There is no shortage of people who need Jesus. Many of us don't want to go where the deepest hungers are. And it is not a question of how much we give but how much we receive.  When we realize everything comes from above, it put you in a different relationship with your stuff."