I stand humbly before you in the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Please God let this message be Your Words and not mine, in JESUS Name. Amen.
I love western movies. Especially ones with Clint Eastwood. One that stands out to me is a spaghetti western by Sergio Leone called “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” Some of you may have heard of it. More of you may have heard the iconic theme song which was designed to mimic a howling coyote. Ah-ee-ah-ee-ah – wah wah wah!
The name of the movie has to do with 3 gunman. Of course, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. They are in a race to find Confederate gold that’s buried in a graveyard. In this movie the western genre is turned on its head since there are no clear cut heroes or villains in this film. It was meant to illustrate that the reality of life is far more complex than good guys in white hats and bad guys in black hats.
The good is a man with no name. Blondie is his nickname based upon his dirty blond hair. He is not good. He is a con man who is not above greed, murder and betrayal. He only appears good compared to the other two as he lives his life with his own personal sense of honor. He is portrayed by Clint Eastwood, an Army veteran of the Korean War.
The ugly is nicknamed Tuco and he is not physically ugly but he is a career criminal. A Mexican bandit who is wanted in many states. An ugly childhood led to him doing ugly things. This character is portrayed by Eli Wallach, an Army veteran of WWII.
The bad is a sadistic hitman who always gets the job done no matter who he has to kill. So yeah, he’s very bad. His name is Sentenza which is Italian for Sentence or Verdict but mostly, he goes by the nickname “Angel Eyes” as an ironic joke and a testament to how well he shoots. And this character is portrayed by Lee Van Cleef, a Navy veteran of WWII.
The Civil War is a major prop throughout the story used to highlight the greed of the characters. The movie itself is an epic sized jab at the concept of war. I find it very interesting that the cast is made up of actors who were war veterans.
The final confrontation takes place at a small dried up lake bed surrounded by a graveyard. A metaphor for life’s struggles and the wilderness. Spoiler alert for anyone who may not have seen it: the treasure is located in a grave marked “Unknown” in a cemetery for soldiers.
The tomb of the unknown soldier is a well-guarded historic monument serving as the people’s memorial located at Arlington National Cemetery. Thousands of unknown soldiers from the Civil War are buried there. Yes, I said thousands. Many feel this war was fought over the morality of slavery when in reality it was a war fought over money and power as most wars are. Eventually the remains of soldiers from Word War I, World War II and the Korean War were also buried there.
Jesus was buried in a tomb that belonged to someone else. No name was on this tomb. On one Sunday morning that tomb stood empty and no longer guarded. This tomb represents the impossible. The impossible achieved by the Good Teacher, our Jesus Christ. Something greater than any freedoms any humans have ever won for us. It represents the freedom Jesus Christ won over sin and death giving us the greatest, most impossible and priceless treasure ever.
We start our church services here at Trinity with the confession of our sins and then not long after that we hear the Gospel, that for the sake of Jesus Christ, we are all forgiven. In this way, the old Adam, our old selves are put to death and we rise again in the impossible Righteousness, Grace and Love of Jesus Christ.
In our Gospel, the rich, young man asks “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” and Jesus answers, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone…”
Jesus gives him a chance to confess and to acknowledge God. The young man does not. And he does not see Jesus as God but as a man. Man is not good. We confess the truth that no one is good. The young ruler was not good. Only God is good. God is great. God is perfect.
Jesus then presents Him with the Law. And the young ruler has deceived himself and states that he has kept these commandments. He actually believes he has done a good job with the commandments. He fools himself but he hasn’t fooled God. Why does he feel the need to do more? He clearly feels something is lacking, something is missing in his life.
Have we kept the commandments? The truth and spirit of the commandments? No. It’s not even possible! Are we ready to face the bad and the ugliness of ourselves? To stand before God we need to do that. To admit how broken we all are. We are completely lost without God. We are sentenced to death and only God saves us.
Our Gospel continues, “…Jesus looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’”
Jesus looks at us and loves us. Every day. And like He does with this young man He puts His finger on our idolatry. What do we put before God? What things take priority in our lives?
If everyone gave their money to the poor then the economy would collapse and so would society. Jesus is asking the impossible just like when He gave us the commandments. And He knows it. We must confess, not turn away. We cannot uphold the law only Jesus could. All we have to do is admit that. Embrace His truth.
The truth is that He is asking to do the impossible on our behalf but we need to trust that He can do it. We need to have faith in God. If our faith isn’t strong enough then we need to pray for more of it. Jesus can pull all of us and all of our camels through the eye of the smallest needle.
We can’t be consumed with our possessions. They are not ours. Even our own lives. Everything is Gods. Our possessions cannot be our master. Only God can be our master. The Master of ALL, The King of ALL Creation, The Creator. Our Savior Jesus Christ.
Do possessions possess our hearts, minds and souls? Our God is a jealous God. He wants our attention and focus. He wants to fill up our hearts, minds and souls AND only He can fill them up. All else will leave us feeling empty inside.
Later on in the chapter, the disciples ask “Then who can be saved?” NO ONE. No one can save themselves. It’s impossible. We’re ALL so broken and bad. WE ALL NEED GOD! We are ALL saved through the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Only His love can make us whole. There was a point in my life where I felt so broken, so bad and so ugly that I couldn’t understand how anyone could love me. I couldn’t love me. I struggled with the trust and the knowledge of simple, basic human love so how could I grasp the Perfect Love of God? Who can? We can’t. It is beyond us, beyond Google, Alexa and any sciences. HIS GRACE HAS TO BE IN US FOR THAT TO HAPPEN! AND IT DOES! THAT’S WHY WE’RE HERE! THAT IS THE SUM OF ALL OF OUR NEEDS! OUR ETERNAL SALVATION IN JESUS CHRIST!
In a world filled with such impossibilities, all things are possible with God. And those impossibilities are not only possible, they happen daily. They are reality here in this place today as Jesus blesses us eternally with His Grace.
In a poem by Rudyard Kipling titled “Gentlemen-Rankers” we get the title of another famous movie “From Here to Eternity”. A verse from the poem reads, “…Gentlemen-rankers out on the spree, Damned from here to Eternity, God ha’ mercy on such as we…”
That really sums up the point nicely. We are all lost sheep. We confess that all we have earned is eternal damnation. Without God we are all unknown nobody’s with our graves dug and ready to be filled because we’re all dead and damned. Then the Good Shepherd comes and gathers us up. We confess and then beg for mercy. AND HE GIVES IT! He took our punishment. His Grace gives us eternal life in Heaven.
Want proof? What was the last thing Jesus said to the young man before he turned away? “Come, follow me.” That is everything we need right there. Do not turn away! The greatest treasure for us is that every day from here to eternity is our True Memorial Day. JESUS CHRIST PUTS THE GOOD INTO ALL OF US! Filling us with it. Actually, overfilling us with it! The most Perfect Eternal Good. Eternally pushing out ALL our bad and ALL our ugly. That’s the true Memorial Day for death, sin and our old selves. THAT’S THE POWER! THAT’S THE TRUTH AND WAY! THAT’S THE LOVE OF OUR GOD! Thank You Jesus!