Friday, October 09, 2009

...with each gift that you share, you may heal and repair...

Life's been pretty crazy lately for me lately (as you'll read below), and thus I haven't been blogging that much.   Look for some new original posts here soon, but until then what's follows is something I recently wrote for the by the way blog.   Enjoy friends!

Wow, I've heard it said countless times throughout the by the way community, but I just have to say it here again: it's amazing how often our weekly Bible passage feels so pertinent to what's going on in our individual lives. When I offered to write this week's blogpost and lead Bread for Your Journey (as long as my car allows me to get there), I had no idea I was signing up to write about exactly what I've been feeling over the last few weeks. Maybe I'm just bending scripture too much to my own individual experience, but maybe not... you can be the judge :)

At any rate, we're picking up right where we left off last Thursday in chapter ten of the Gospel of Mark, this time in verses seventeen through thirty-one:

17As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18“Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. 19But to answer your question, you know the commandments: You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.”
20“Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”
21Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
23Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” 24This amazed them. But Jesus said again, “Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God. 25In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”
26The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.
27Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.”
28Then Peter began to speak up. “We’ve given up everything to follow you,” he said.
29“Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, 30will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. 31But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.” (New Living Translation)

Jesus has a great way of turning the world upside down, and he definitely does just that in this passage. It's easy to think of those who are "the greatest" or "most successful" (whatever that means) in this world to be the most blessed by God... I'm sure it was easy for many in Jesus' day to think the same.

I personally made a decision two months ago to give up what was a fairly financially lucrative job (working 80 hours a week) to find another job that would allow me more time to pursue a couple voluntary ministry opportunities while also preparing to start seminary in a year or two. After seven surprise car breakdowns and a tough economy slowed my new job search to halt though, I'm still unemployed and now moving back home... For the first time in my life I think, I wouldn't be what most people would call a "success." I began almost thinking like Job or something, sort of angry at God for my situation, but only over the last couple of days have I really come to see that in many ways, I've never been so blessed.

When you have a lot of money, you also have many more options and it's a whole lot easier to entertain yourself (at least in a shallower sort of way). Also, when you have a lot of money, you can seemingly be completely independent... having financial means and independence certainly isn't bad thing in and of itself, but Jesus was right... it does make it a bit harder to find God. Having more free time lately has given me a lot more time to read, write, pray and contemplate my relationship with my Creator. Not being financially independent has done a couple of great things: 1) it's made my relationship with my father much closer, and 2) it's made me realize that even when I can become "independent" from my father again, I should never try to be independent from my Father (if you dig what I'm saying).

Not having much in the way of resources also really makes you think more about how you use those resources, which is the other thing I think Jesus was getting at in our passage this week. Due to my new-found lack of resources, stewardship, in every sense of the word, has really started to become a central tenet to my faith. As we'll talk about more this Thursday at Bread for Journey, as Christians we can't just concern ourselves with saving souls... we need to concern ourselves with being good stewards of God's creation here on Earth as well. Messages, a song by Xavier Rudd, one of my favorite singer/songwriters really touches on that fact:


At first listen it seems like Xavier Rudd is just talking about being a good steward of the environment, but I think he's digging quite a bit deeper here too... we need to start seeing ourselves as part of God's creation again... a really important part of it. Taking care of our bodies, making the most of our time, and realizing that whatever resources we do come upon during that time (financial or otherwise) are just being borrowed from God, are essential aspects of stewardship as well. And finally, with the caveat in mind that we need some of our borrowed resources to take care of ourselves and our families, we should use whatever we can to help other folks, the environment, and the rest of God's beautiful creation. I look forward to talking more about all of this @ Bread for Your Journey this Thursday.

God's peace,