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Today we start our series on Francis of Assisi, looking to his example of discipleship in the 13th century as a way to practice how we are called to be disciples today in 21st century California.
This encounter happens as Jesus is again on the road, walking, being followed – living out faith. How is the person who comes to Jesus identified? How does he arrive? What does he want? How does he identify or address Jesus?
The sparseness of the text seems to give the impression of urgency, suddenness and flowing action. This person is obviously pious, practicing and passionate. He kneels, he recognizes Jesus’ authority, he seems to know the Law. Why does Jesus react to being called “Good Master”? Is he disrespectful, or trying to make a point?
What image do you have of this un-named man? In the text he is only defined by his piety – claiming to have kept the law since his youth; and his possessions – which are great and many. Suddenly the story seems to slow down. Jesus looks at him. Jesus loves him. We can imagine the man’s response to the seemingly impossible faith challenge to sell everything that he possesses. His face falls, almost melts. He is broken. Curiously the disciples respond not with pity or compassion, but with self-indulgent fear….”but Jesus, what about us?” I wonder if the un-named man heard the last statement of Jesus about the impossible things that God can do and does?
Francis was born into a wealthy family. In 1204 at the age of 24 he gave away some of his father’s wealth and was publicly tried for such generosity as theft. At the end of the trial he renounced his wealth, privilege and possessions, promising to pay back his father, but going so far as to strip naked in the town square and walk off into the woods with literally nothing. Supposedly it was even in the winter snows.
Questions for Going Deeper: