Saturday, 29 September 2012

Imperfectly yours

GospelMark 9:38-43,45,47-48 

John said to Jesus, ‘Master, we saw a man who is not one of us casting out devils in your name; and because he was not one of us we tried to stop him.’ But Jesus said, ‘You must not stop him: no one who works a miracle in my name is likely to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us.
  ‘If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink just because you belong to Christ, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.
  ‘But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck. And if your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell, into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life lame, than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye should cause you to sin, tear it out; it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell where their worm does not die nor their fire go out.’

Mark is generally a 'what you see is what you get' writer. A sparse reporter, at best; the challenge is usually padding out the verses with experiences and understanding.

But not here.

The disciples complain about someone doing good in Jesus' name; someone who is not one of them. In a world where the number of Christian groups now number tens of thousands, this message seems clear. We have spent too much time judging each others worth to speak in Jesus' name. When we comment that someone is not one of us, we immedately raise our status; give ourselves authority; we take ownership of God's power. We have conveniently disregarded the fact that the power of healing, of reconciliation lies in Jesus' name and not in our own tongue. We can count ourselves chastised and promise to be more ecumenical; more accepting; more appreciative of those who are not 'like us' - or we can try.

But the next part is altogether more obscure.

These verses remind me of one of Matthew's tirades against the Pharisees and scribes. A repetition of imagery that feels more and more unconfortable as the 'worm' gets nearer and nearer. How can it be better to be lame, blind, disabled. How can I make the choice to maim myself; how can this be what God could ever want?

I wonder if it is my 'self' or my ego that Jesus is talking about.

The Gospels constantly warn against the power of the ego. How easy it is for a seemingly authentic faith to place itself in a place of authority over others even with the warning that we should not be called father, master, leader or teacher. These are the titles we give ourselves and that we allow others to confer on us. And, often, we work hard to achieve them with the justification of vocation and talent being fulfilled - surely as God would want?

And maybe God does want; and maybe God also wants us to remember what the mission is. To call people to change and to believe. Not to stand in the way of that belief; not to tell them how and if they have changed; not to put ourselves up as examples of the perfect Christian even when there is no such thing as perfect.   Jesus says that only his Father is good; Jesus sees himself as 'less', as the servant, as the friend. We can do no more.

Programmes such as the Twelve Steps can only begin with the knowledge and acceptance that we cannot solve our problems by ourselves. In Step One, the person is immediately and voluntarily disabled; they have to accept that they are at the bottom of the heap and that there is no way up without turning their life over to a Higher Power who will guide and heal as long as they stay in that relationship of need and dependence.

We imagine that our faith is best supported with confidence; with justification . Maybe not if that confidence is self- grown. We need to be 'disabled' - from our pride; our certainty; our personal prejudices and envy of others. God, it seems, cannot bear ego, pride or certainty. 

We are worth more without these earthly tendencies; when we can act - even teach or lead - with compassion; forgiveness; understanding and, most of all, love; when we can do all these with acknowledgement of our weaknesses.

 We are never more completely God's than when we are broken.

In Jesus' name


1 comment:

Lynda said...

" We are never more completely God's than when we are broken." This is a very powerful statement reminding me of Christ's truth that we must lose our lives in order to save them. We need to realize that we are nothing without Christ and yet we have nothing except ourselves to give him.