Sunday Week 22 Year A

Though you might not guess it looking at me I’ve never been on a surfboard. I’ve never been a surfer—if you don’t count channel surfing and my mastery of the remote—but I have watched them once or twice and found it stunning— audacious and beautiful and dangerous. The heart of the surfer’s art is an unusual balance—not just the physical balance of walking on water but another balance between bodily grace and crippling calamity. They ride the edge of a wave pushing their skill right to the brink of injury and death in search of the experience of really living. And when they find it they light up: they risk losing their life to find it.

We talk about ‘bearing our crosses’ in tones of resignation—fate has dealt me this hand and now I’ll offer it up and find some spiritual meaning in what I can’t avoid…
But Jesus must have been a surfer. When he says ‘renounce yourself and take up your cross’, when he says ‘lose your life and save it’, there’s no resignation in it—he’s talking about seeking out the edge where something is worth dying for, finding the place where death makes life worth living.
Matthew says Jesus was destined to go to Jerusalem to suffer but that makes it seem he had no choice. He did. Go home and die a safe man’s death or carry the cross of his good news into the Holy City riding the edge of his art, hoping for life abundant.
We know the wave broke, and broke him with it, but what a ride it was—audacious and beautiful and dangerous! And what a life came from his death!
Surfers, for all their dopey cool, are addicts and obsessives. Once they have balanced on the edge and tasted the wave they can’t get the thirst from their mouths. They pursue those waves: challenge them, push their luck to the breaking point and beyond.
Jeremiah is protesting and praising just that experience. ‘You have seduced me God and I have let myself be seduced. You have been too much for me but I cannot forget you. I cannot be silent, I cannot un-speak your name, or swallow your words—they throb like a fire in my heart and a burning in my bones.’

My advice to you (and to myself) is to go home and stick to channel-surfing. The less you risk the less you feel. The less you feel the less you risk. … Avoid Jesus at all costs. Because if you let him in, if you let him close, if you feel his touch—he will seduce you and you will let yourself be seduced. Better, my friends, not to know him, better not to get the taste for him and his crazy, wonderful life.

Of course it may already be too late.