Jesus turns to his followers and says, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God!" (Mark 10.25). This is not a happy story but I smiled remembering first thinking about it. I was both an imaginative and a literal child who once spent a whole afternoon looking for the "elbow grease" so I could scrub the ceramic coffee pot clean for my mom. Eventually I called her at work to ask where it was, frustrated I couldn't find what she always said she used to perform that miraculous feat. She still likes to tell that story.
So there I was squirming between my parents on a hard wooden pew in St. Peter's Catholic Church in Colman, South Dakota when I first heard this story. Arrested by its imagery, I remembered a trip to the Black Hills to visit our extended family. During that trip we went to see a impressive geological formation known as "the Needles." I could picture a camel passing through that needle's eye. You'd just have to get a crane to get the camel up there but it could happen, right? Entranced by the pictures in my head, you could say I missed the point of the story. Or maybe not. My God was as gentle and loving as Jesus was in the story, so I thought a rich person could make it into God's kingdom. Even then, apparently, I had Universalist leanings!