Among many other characteristics of the God we worship, the chief one is divine actions when we least expect them, actions that often amaze and astound, appearing as they do in common forms.
The Lively Lectionary New Testament is a blog by Rev. Dr. Alyce McKenzie that reflects on the gospel text from the Revised Common Lectionary each week. It offers a 1000-1200 word post that relates the text to contemporary life.
It is a well-known fact that Luke’s Gospel and his 2nd volume Book of the Acts are, rather more than the other Gospels, quite concerned with the perils of wealth and its possible misuse.
Today’s text thrusts us directly into the enormously consequential narrative of Peter’s confrontation with the Holy Spirit that forces him to rethink everything he has learned and practiced as a first-century Jew.
In all four gospels, Jesus is portrayed as persistently resisting the efforts of others to define him, to tell him who he has to be, to force him into existing categories.
When we're going through hell, how can we keep on going?
The answer? By remembering two pieces of very good news concealed in the pile of pains, pangs, and persecutions of this text:
- The Holy Spirit supports us in every dreaded encounter and event.
- The one who keeps the faith and endures to the end will participate in Jesus' victory over death.
I know lots of adults who make sure they buy enough candy (that they like) so they have some left when the trick or treaters have stopped ringing the doorbell Halloween night. We all have our own ways of keeping a little something back for ourselves. We can't all be like this noble widow giving away her last bit of cash with nothing left in her ATM. She's all in.
God doesn't want much. God just wants your heart, the seat of your emotions, your inner character, and your decision-making. God just wants your caring, your character, your creativity, and your carry-through. Strengthened by God's giving God's heart to us, we can give ours to our neighbor.
Within our hearts are both humility and arrogance, respect for others and a desire to outshine them, a desire to serve and a craving to be served. The one you feed wins. How do we feed the humility and spirit of service Jesus holds up as the model for discipleship in this passage from 10:35-45?
There are many varieties of baggage that necessitate our wearing a sign that says "WIDE LOAD." All of them need to be left behind when we head home to Jesus to follow in his Way.
What Jesus does is take a traditional proverbial form used to offer clear-cut options and adds a dash of paradox and a big dollop of hyperbole. In everyday life when people exaggerate, they are stretching the truth. What is different about Jesus' use of hyperbole is that he is not exaggerating about the destructive potential consequences of our actions. Not really.
In reading this text, it struck me that the disciples were self-promoters when they should have been promoting Jesus and his message. I'm going to send them a memo, which I've entitled "Top Ten Ways You Are Failing at Promoting the Good News." In it, I make it very clear that they need to reverse their attitudes and actions if they want to spread the word about the gift (or in sales terms—the product) Jesus has to offer the world that needs it so badly.
The skies of Mark's gospel are full of spiritual skydivers. Jesus doesn't mean for you to go out and become a martyr. He does mean that there are times in our lives when we realize that in losing our agenda, our control, our wants, we find our true identity and purpose.