Archive for September 3rd, 2001

Monday Week 24 Year I

What gets me here is the way people don’t meet. The centurion doesn’t go to Jesus himself, never speaks for himself—maybe he wants to go through the proper channels, maybe he wants whatever leverage he can get from the Jewish elders—and it must have been enough because Jesus does come to cure his beloved servant but then when Jesus is almost there the soldier sends out his friends this time to keep Jesus right where he is even as he is expressing by proxy confidence in his power to act at a distance. Jesus never gets to meet the centurion he praises so much—as having faith beyond any in Israel. But the boy, the soldier’s dear one, ends up in perfect health anyway. And Jesus learns something about faith—Luke uses that phrase ‘turning around’ exactly seven times and each one is a physical turning which implies a spiritual turning too …
But whatever faith the man expresses, and whatever cure the boy receives, and whatever Jesus learns about his calling, I’m left with a little sadness, a wistfulness. I wish they had met, face-to-face… Jesus and that faithful Roman. I wish they had done more than speak through go-betweens, exchange messages and authority, I wish they had got to know each other. Spoken about what they both held dear. Who. What they both loved. What they had each learned about life and love and God.
I wonder if their lives had been different, if they’d not both been bound by their own authority, their own callings, whether they might not have become friends. Because power is one thing, being healed is one thing, finding your way is one thing—but friendship, ah friendship, is something else, something greater, deeper, brighter, harder, finer…
And though God offers us power, and though God offers us healing, and though God offers us a way—these are nothing next to what God offers us—must long for us to accept—friendship.

September 3rd, 2001

Friday Week 20 Year I (St Bartholomew)

Call, or vocation, or ministry often gets painted in the most macho terms. Maybe we’ve experienced it that way ourselves. As something heroic, demanding, self-denying. Joseph Campbell, the great student of myth, writes about the hero journey as archetypically involving leaving, leaving home, leaving family, leaving familiarity and setting out on a lone quest to slay the dragon, find the un-findable treasure, and become a man. There’s echoes of that in Jesus’ own calling—leaving the comfort of his life, his work, his home and heading out to meet John at the Jordan and be driven, dripping wet, into the desert to face his demons and embark on a short and heroic life. It’s there too in the call of the disciples. Leaving, leaving behind, growing up.
But that’s only the men. While the men are gadding about heroically slaying dragons, the women get to stay at home and mend socks. What does the women’s hero-journey look like? And is it even a journey at all?
That’s what’s so important about Ruth. She is every bit as much a disciple, every bit as much one called, as Nathaniel but her vocation is one of fidelity. Of holding tight instead of letting go. Of staying with instead of setting out. ‘Wherever you go I will go, where you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.’ I’m not suggesting there’s one way for women and another for men. Exactly the opposite. All of us need to do what Ruth did—to feel our desire and let it live as love. ‘Wherever you go I will go, where you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.’ And there she is in the lineage of Jesus—a foreigner, among the Hebrews, a women among the men. If she had not looked within and listened to her deepest desires and answered her call and spoken her words we would not have Jesus and we wouldn’t be here today.

September 3rd, 2001


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