Thursday, February 22, 2018

Will you suffer Christ?

You won’t never think it, but in this week’s Gospel (Mark 8.31-38) Jesus told someone to “shut up”. Remember when we were kids? Remember the treat that our mothers would be told that if we spoke like that we would get into so much trouble and then our dads would find out!?! The remark is made during Jesus teaching the Twelve about where they were going and what was going to happen to him when they got to Jerusalem. Specifically, that there was going to be a confrontation and that he would lose that confrontation, be killed and three days after, rise from the dead. And what’s more he didn’t hide it, Jesus spoke plainly about it.

So, upon hearing this, Simon Peter takes Jesus aside and then takes him to task and says to him, “No! God take this away from you! This should never happen to you! No! You shut up!” This draws the reaction described above, “Shut up! Get behind me and get back in line! You are thinking about yourself and what you want for yourselves not about what God wants to accomplish.”

So this begs a question, “Will you suffer Christ and his will for your sake and that of others?”

There are so many people and organizations that want to have it their way, plan control and do things that make them look better but are never ready to honour God with who they are or what they want to do, including the Church. People have their agendas and they want their agendas honoured and if God is involved, that’s good too. The problem with that kind of thinking is that it is a trap. When we think and believe that we know it all, there is something that happens that proves that we do not.

In Peter we can see and hear what human belongs are like. One needs to keep in mind hat he took the risk and declared on behalf of the Twelve that Jesus is the Anointed One from God (Messiah). In acknowledging the insight, Jesus applauded the Twelve but then told them to ‘shut up’ about it. The reason for the imposition of silence? They had the right guy, but the wrong idea about the kingdom. Case and point, Peter did not want to hear anymore about this suffering and dying stuff – that’s not what God faith and religion are about – is it?

If you stop and consider what our culture says about heroes and saviours, they are a lot that can suffer so long as it has no effect in the lives of the people around them. This is not what Jesus calls the people together with his disciples to talk about. He calls on them do the most difficult thing a human can do: forfeit their lives in favour of the life of the kingdom. In the eyes of the world, heroes are the ones to undergo suffering, pain and death. The rest of the world is to be left intact, undisturbed.  The hero bears the brunt of the evil while the rest of the world is left intact, free to continue its way without being changed or shaped by the sacrifice and life that was offered for them. Nothing in the world change - it just keeps going forward and stays the same.

Therefore, Jesus and his life and his death on the cross along with his resurrection make all the difference in this world. Through Christ, The Father is working to make the fallen rise and to make the old new. The Spirit is working to bring everything to its perfection in Christ.  

And in the meantime, the discipline of the kingdom is that everyone follows. Everyone takes up their cross and leaves what has been, behind. It is more than a time of self denial. It is an act of total surrender. It is a relinquish all that we are and all that we have in favour of what is coming in the new kingdom. It is not our life anymore. As Saint Paul would have it, “It is not I who l lives, but Christ who lives in me.”

So the question comes to you and to me, “Will you suffer Christ, concede your agenda, plans and intentions, pick up and walk with your death and follow Christ?” Those who will come with us, will find life like they have never known it before.

Isn’t that worth a walk towards?


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Dealing with Fabricated Kingdoms

There is something in me right now that is burning or chaffing in me because I am watching the Church and getting ready for another Lent. We seem to have miss understood what this time of year is about. Yes, we are six weeks out from the celebration of Easter and this is the time when we are to repent and to return to the Lord because we have fallen away, walked away or even run away for him. This is a moment for repentance and for surrender – not just self denial. In reading the lessons for Ash Wednesday and for the First Sunday of Lent, there is something that come out loud and clear: we cannot tag God on. God wants us to have a faith tht is practical, not just informed. So, the challenge is simple. We need to walk what we preach, and we need to preach what we walk. There is a reality that we need to face in this part of the world, people know you by how you walk, before you have ever uttered a single word.

That is why we need to be a people who have surrendered. Did not Jesus himself say, that “If anyone would come after me, they must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me?” That is not the same thing as giving up  something for Lent, it is a total surrender of one’s life to the will of the Master. In fact, the third and fourth centuries, the words of baptism took this seriously because the deacon would say to you, “I kill you.” Then you were pushed down under the surface of the water so that you disappeared. The understanding was that when you left that font, you left as a new person. The old person was dead and there was a new creation.

It is part and parcel of being a disciple. We must surrender to Christ and learn to continue to surrender to him in the things that are in out lives. And believe it or not, there is more. Jesus takes his disciples with him on the journey – so that they can get his dust on them. And in doing so he is teaching them at least two important things: (1) they need to listen and to learn from him and (2) they are learning to proclaim the Gospel with dignity and with power so that there is a unified witness of the Church. A unified witness does not mean that we have it all together, that there are no disagreements and misunderstandings. It means that in all things we must proclaim Christ and his kingdom. We must make people aware that the collisions that are being created with our fabricated kingdoms and the coming of the kingdom of God.

We need to declare Christ so that people can hear the heavens being torn open and know that God is speaking to them. God is calling on people to hear his Son and to follow him – into life without end. God is forgiving, retrieving us and healing our wounds to make us whole. God is merciful because he stands between us and our impending disasters and death and calls us to himself to prevent our destruction. God is powerful and can pull down the kingdoms of creation, personal and corporate, physical and spiritual so that his will for his beloved comes to fruition.  The kingdom of God is becoming a reality in the here and now, not just the there and then. It is unique and while all are called to it there are impediments to entrance. We cannot enter his kingdom on our terms. We must enter on his terms. The kingdom is not so much a place as it is a dominion or a reign. It is a power that has the strength and the ability to turn right side up, this upside-down world. It has the strength to turn an inward focused Church, outwards; to care for the poor the hungry, the sick, the lonely, the naked and those in jail.

Most of all, we need to recognize that this life is lived in the power and grace of the Holy Spirit. He is how we live and move and have our being. It is through him that we can deal with temptation and deal with hunger and thirst, with emptiness and worthlessness.

So, are you ready to surrender? Are you ready to step up and step out in faith? Are you ready to live and die, then rise again, daily if you must? And remember, the worst things we deal with, are never the last things we will deal with – God will see to that.