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For those of us who are not poor, the encounter between the rich man and Jesus in Mark’s Gospel (Mark 10: 17–27) is a terrible one; it’s confronting. A decent man comes to Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life; and he is a decent man: he’s kept the commandments and followed all the rules.

So why does he come to Jesus? That’s the interesting question. He’s been a man of faith since his youth. He’s done everything right, but he has this nagging feeling that there is something more waiting for him. He has a sense that God is calling him in a different direction. No doubt he has heard about Jesus: the charismatic teacher, who had gathered a following of people and when he hears that Jesus is in his region, he seeks him out, hoping that perhaps the dynamic preacher will have an answer for him.

The thing about following God’s call, though, for this is surely what leads him to Jesus – following God’s call – the thing about that is that it won’t always give you the answer you’re looking for or the answer you expect.

So, the rich man comes to Jesus, looking for answers. He’s been searching.

I reckon I’ve known two people in my life who were like the rich man in this Gospel reading. Both of them heard God calling to them. They felt God saying, “There is more.” Like the rich man, they both had the courage to follow the call. Unlike the rich man, though, they also had the courage to follow through, even when it took them in unexpected directions. Let me tell you about one of them today: my friend Geoff.

Some background first… I always think of myself as lucky, because I was brought up going to church and I quite liked it. It not only gave me faith, but it taught me about music and formalities: etiquette. I always liked the music. I joined the choir and, once my voice broke, I fitted into the bass line and sat next to an older bass who knew how to sing, so I quickly learned the ropes. The church I attended as a teenager had really interesting liturgy too: incense, statues everywhere, stained glass windows, processions, robes: it was like worshipping at the Cathedral really, except it was just a little parish church in Goodwood. So, I always think of myself as lucky, because I found it all fascinating. When people ask me sometimes, “How do you know all this stuff about services and music?” the answer is easy, “It’s in my blood!”

This was in the 1980s and even back then our family was somewhat unusual, because we went to church. One week something very strange happened: Geoff just turned up at our church and started attending. Even in the 1980s this was strange. Geoff was in his late 30s would be my guess, single guy, who could sing as it happened, so he joined the bass line in the choir and I got to know him. I was learning to drive at the time and he had a little Subaru, so about once a month for about 6 months we would go out for a drive. Gradually he started telling my his story. He was an engineer and was quite successful. He’d graduated from Adelaide University, had some success, and ended up working for an Australian engineering company with links in Indonesia. He was a well paid engineer, single man, who had everything you could possibly want. He had plenty of money, he had a successful career, he had a house; he had everything. But, like the rich man in today’s reading, he also sensed there was something more to life.

During one of his stints in Indonesia the workers managed to get the company bulldozer bogged: there’s a lot of rain in that part of the world and when you’re working on the side of the river preparing footings for a new bridge, well, bogging the bulldozer is a possibility.

So, while the workers trooped back to headquarters to get another bulldozer and other equipment to rescue the bogged one, Geoff was left on the side of the river in Indonesia with nothing to do except think. And he felt God speaking to him. I say “felt” because he didn’t have some overwhelming religious experience in which he heard God’s voice – it was much simpler than that. He just had a sense that there was more to life: the money and the career, by themselves, were not enough.

So, when he got back to Adelaide, he sought out his local parish church, joined the choir, started teaching a young choir member how to drive on dirt roads, eventually met the love of his life, got married, and his life changed forever. He felt God calling to him, saying, “There is more for you Geoff, just waiting around the corner, if you have the courage to pursue it.”

The Reverend Dr Theo McCall
School Chaplain