On Wednesday the Church remembered the life, work and martyrdom of William Tyndale.
Tyndale was born at the end of the 15th century and would go on to become the first person to translate the scriptures from Greek into contemporary English.
Despite being faced with considerable opposition … and ultimately being martyred for his work … it is Tyndale we must thank for opening scripture to the world in a vernacular translation.
So … why am I looking back to Wednesday’s commemoration of this man? Because of a phrase in today’s verses from the letter to the Hebrews: The word of God is living and active … it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
These few words contain so much energy: The word of God is living and active.
It is through the work of Tyndale, and those who have followed him, that we are confronted with the challenge of these words.
And … when we read those words alongside Jesus’ words to the rich man they gain an added power.
When asked what he should do to inherit eternal life, Jesus said: You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.
We are greatly blessed with the multiplicity of translations of the bible from which we can choose.
As every new translation clamours for our attention, we are being given yet another opportunity to engage with the word of God which is living and active.
But … do we appreciate the door that has been opened for us?
The rich man in today’s reading from Mark’s gospel was clearly a ‘good’ and ‘devout’ man … He knew the commandments of God and he lived by them, but … this was not enough … Jesus needed him to go even further.
In our reading from the prophet Amos we heard these words: Seek the Lord and live … Seek good and not evil, that you may live.
In a time of almost universal literacy, and with easy access to an understandable translation of the bible, we are able to engage with the word of God which is living and active … but we don’t!
Many people own bibles – they are still given as Baptism, Confirmation and Wedding presents – but how often are they opened, let alone read?
And when we do read our bibles, what difference do we allow that engagement with the living and active word of God make to the way in which we live our lives?
The prophet Amos tells us to seek the Lord and live … to seek good and not evil.
So often the words of scripture roll over and around us … and make no real difference at all.
This is what Jesus is telling us through his interaction with the rich man.
The rich man knew his scripture, but … what difference did that knowledge make?
The rich man still held on to his worldly wealth, apparently making no effort to follow the words of Amos: seek good and not evil.
We are just like that rich man.
In recent days three people have talked to me quite powerfully about their ‘faith’ in God … a faith which might be better expressed as ‘belief’.
You see, real faith in God is something that demands action … self-sacrificial action.
Jesus did not say to the rich man: Well done for knowing your commandments! Enjoy the benefits of the eternal life you crave!
No, Jesus said: There is something else for you to do! Prove that your knowledge of scripture makes a difference as it feeds your faith in God.
Jesus tests the faith of the rich man by setting him a difficult challenge … a challenge which he fails to meet because he is still rooted in this world.
In the letter to the Hebrews we heard these words: The word of God … is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
How would the word of God judge the thoughts and intentions of our hearts?
I suspect that some of you are already preparing your arguments for not impoverishing yourselves … for clinging on to your worldly wealth.
But … what about those who have nothing … those we are called to love and serve in Christ’s name?
As we build higher and higher walls around our worldly wealth, the needs of those who really have nothing pale into insignificance … We fail to seek good … Instead we become ever more firmly rooted in evil.
Jesus said to the rich man: You lack one thing … We are also lacking that one thing … We are lacking the faith and the courage to turn our belief into action … We are failing to seek the Lord and live …
We are failing to grasp the true essence of the life of faith … that we are called to give up our place at the front of the queue for the benefit of others.
On 6th October 1536, William Tyndale was strangled and burnt at the stake because he believed that God had called him to bring scripture into the lives of all.
Almost 500 years later, we are called to read that scripture, and prove that his life was not offered in vain.
We are called to Seek the Lord and live … seeking good and not evil, that we may live.
We are called to show that the word of God, that may well be gathering dust on our bookshelves, is living and active … showing that we understand its capacity to judge the thoughts and intentions of our heart[s].
We are called to be ready to sacrifice all that we value in this world in order that our ‘belief’ in Jesus Christ might turn into a ‘life of faith’ … a life that shows our willingness to answer Jesus’ call when he says to us: come, follow me.
We are called to put ourselves at the back of the line, showing our faith that our heavenly reward will come at the end of a life that has been lived in a way that has allowed Christ’s light, love and peace to shine ever brighter in this world.