Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Jesus looked him hard in the eye - and loved him...

So today I started a whole new way - for me - of preparing my message for Sunday. After a few
hours of serious Bible/word study, I zeroed-in on a three questions. My hope is that while sharing some of the Biblical context, we might have a modest conversation about:

1) Do you know the fundamentals of holy intimacy? My take on the assigned gospel text in Mark 10 is that the person who meets Jesus on the road aches for more meaning in his life. He is serious. He has learned the essentials and fundamentals. He keeps the commandments. The text literally says that he falls to his knees in reverence and implores Jesus: What must I do? He is on a quest for more vitality, more intimacy, more meaning and his searching is not contrived. He wants to know how to go deeper.  So I want to hear from my folk about where they learned to pray - or if they learned to pray - and where they learned about serving one another in humility - and how they learned to trust God's grace?  My sense is that you can't go deeper without learning the basics. You can FEEL the aching, of course, but without a context it is all too easy to go "looking for love in all the wrong places." So, first we start with the basics. Additionally,, sometimes we've only learned a part of the sacred Trinity in Micah 6:8 concerning what does the Lord require? Justice, compassion and humbled awe. I am eager to see what shakes out with this first question.

2) What is saving your life right now? This, of course comes from Barbara Brown Taylor, and I think it is at the heart of the dialogue Jesus has with the rich young man. I believe that there are clues in our ordinary lives where God's grace, hope, love and truth are breaking through if we but take the time to name and claim them. When we do, my experience has been that they will point us towards the next step in going deeper into "eternal life." And let's be clear that eternal life is not so much about heaven, but more about living into experiences and truths that are... eternal. Essential. Sacred and human at the same time. I don't think we can go deeper into the heart of God without finding tastes of the eternal in our every day experiences. How does the Psalmist put it? Taste - and see? So I'm eager to hear where my community is finding salvation in their lives right now.

3) Do you trust God's love more than your fears?  After discerning that this soul is the real deal - not some user or poser - Jesus looks at this man hard in the eye and loves him. He not only authenticates this seeker's searching, but wants to help him take the next step. And that only comes from love. You can't scold, shame, educate or lecture a person into trusting love. They have to experience it. Last week's gospel told of Jesus speaking tenderly to the people. This week the emphasis is on loving. In both cases, the love empowers the trust; and trust leads to following in ways we could never imagine if left to our own thoughts or fears. The rich young man is loved by Jesus so that he might come to love God even more. Peterson's translation is potent: 

Jesus looked him hard in the eye—and loved him! "There’s one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me.” Sadly, the Bible continues:  The man’s face clouded over.This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go.

This is a heart-breaking conclusion - one that rings true to my experience. The young man left because "he was holding on tight to a lot of things and not about to let go." Who has NOT been in this boat?  My hunch is that this is true for all of us at different stages in our lives. And the good news is that the invitation to trust is never rescinded.  Now we may see as through a glass darkly, but later we shall see face to face. Now we may only trust a little bit, but that isn't the end of the story. 

My experience of grace and God's love is that God is always waiting for me to reconsider. To repent. To turn around and return to the love that has always been waiting for me since before the start of creation. That's where I think we're going with all of this on Sunday - plus a wonderful folk song with my musical colleagues as well as a Horace Silver jazz duet on piano and bass. I'll keep you posted...

1) art and music @
2) state of love and trust @

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