Archive for January, 2002
Isn’t there something deliciously, riskily attractive about the Jesus of the gospel today? When I was a callow youth studying chemistry I had a teacher who was always saying ‘well you’ll have learned X but the truth is …’ and then he’d go on to debunk whatever X was and show you how, impossible as it might seem, Y was the case. I lapped it up. Here was a guy who was breaking all the rules and getting paid for it. And somehow if I listened carefully enough, attended all the lectures, not only would I know that Y was better than X but maybe I too could be similarly, quirkily, rule-breakingly, ‘hip’ or ‘cool’ or … you add the adjective of the moment. And maybe, if I sat in the front row and smiled knowingly in all the right places and nodded sagely at his insights, well, maybe he might notice me and share and extra portion of his wisdom, might make me a disciple: a delicious and risky thought. Delicious … but risky—because I knew it would be hard work being so quirky, so insightful, so damned clever.
Now you are all probably thinking ‘loser’ – so let me say (a) you are right and (b) maybe the craving to be a disciple isn’t so foreign to you either if you find the right example.
And (c) discipleship in the kingdom of God isn’t like that at all. First the invitation comes from Jesus. Second it doesn’t come on merit—or if it does it is upside-down. I imagine us standing there like Eliab—“I’m big and strong—choose me”—or Abinadab—“I have the words—choose me”—or Shammah—“I am faithful—choose me”. The question is not whether we have what it takes to be chosen—the right assets—but whether we have all the right lacks, whether enough is missing, whether our weakness makes us vulnerable enough for so vulnerable a Master.
January 22nd, 2002
Here are two stories that don’t quite work out the way the heroes intend. Three if you include your own.
Anthony hears the gospel, ‘go, sell all you have, give the money to the poor, then come follow me’, and with the heroism of youth he does. Sells, gives, and follows a path out into the desert in search of solitude, austerity, and God. But God in her wisdom subverts his heroism by making the wilderness he loves into a little city as saints and sinners come by the drove to gawk, to wonder, to touch, to pray, to stay. Would he have chosen differently if he’d know how it would work out?
Jesus, in his own story, seems so moved with compassion for the leper that he heals without thought of doing otherwise. But it has a price. Against Jesus’ instructions the delighted man blabs and tells and Jesus gets so harried by the crowds who gather, saints and sinners alike, that he can no longer go openly into the towns he loves but has to stay outside in the wilderness. Would he have chosen differently if he’d known the way it would turn out?
I guess I wonder what it is that moves us each so much that we make those choices which change our lives in ways we can never know.
January 17th, 2002
“Here is my servant whom I uphold”. Here he is! But who is he? Who is it held before our eyes, dripping, half-drowned, dazzled?
It all began here says Luke in Acts: “God anointed him with Holy Spirit and power and because God was with him he went about doing good and curing any who had fallen into the power of the devil”. Who he is, is an issue of power: power received and power used.
Why does the Baptizer think it unfitting that he should be baptizing Jesus and not the other way around? Is that a matter of power, of precedence, too? Why does Jesus think it is fitting? And what kind of justice is being done when John plunges Jesus under the waves and holds him there until his breath is spent?
And why now? Why does the Spirit descend now? Why does God speak now? Declare now his love now, disclose his paternity now?
This is a gob-smacking moment for Jesus—but even more so for the God who breaks a 5000 year silence to mark it so. So, why now? Is this too an issue of power: power refused and power redefined?
“Here is my servant whom I uphold”. Can you see him, dripping, half-drowned, dazzled? “He does not cry out or shout aloud or make his voice heard in the streets. He does not break the crushed reed, nor quench the wavering flame but faithfully he brings true justice”.
January 13th, 2002
It isn’t the quality of our prayer that counts it seems—it isn’t even the quality of our ministry. What seems to count with God is how well we love—nothing more. So says John.
And just in case that scares you, makes you want to husband the meagre reserves of love you feel you have, Mark has a word or two of instruction.
Take stock of what you have, find it isn’t nearly enough and then give it away, all of it, completely, every scrap, to Jesus. And the little you no longer have will come back to you in abundance, more than enough for every need, enough to stuff you full and leave you bloated, enough to waste. Enough!
Love is like that.
January 8th, 2002
Come and See. Two invitations. And one is conditional on the other.
Those getting ready for the 30 day retreat will probably be sick of this gospel passage already—we’ve used it a couple of times by now—but there’s a lot said those two words. Come and see.
You have to hear them from the mouth of Jesus. And hear them spoken to you. They’re a personal invitation and one you can respond to or not as you please. First, to come—to get up and go somewhere with Jesus, sight unseen. It takes a particular kind of generosity and readiness to risk to even consider doing that. To even consider walking off with him wherever he might take you. And no doubt a little tug of war gets going in all of us when we hear the invitation to ‘come’. There’s the safety of where you are right now—even if you don’t like where you are at least it is familiar to you—over against the fear that you might be taken somewhere you don’t know and don’t want to know. That set of forces would lock you in position, get you to hold fast, to stay put but, thank God, there’s another force at work too—Jesus is attractive to you. Something about him draws you, makes you want to go with him. And it’s not the sense you should or ought to go but that deep down you really do want to. You want to get close to this man; you want to know him better.
And that’s the tug of war. Which will you do? Will you stay put or will you come and see? And the answer, I’ll bet, is … both. You’ll do both, sometimes you’ll come along happily and sometimes you’ll hold back prudently. But every time you go with him, spend time with him, stay with him where he lives, you’ll see something. You’ll see Jesus and your trust will grow.
Come and see. Insofar as you ‘come’ you’ll ‘see’ and what you see will make it easier and easier to ‘come’. That’s what a retreat is about. Come with him and see him and stay with him and follow him.
January 4th, 2002