Friday, March 23, 2012

Not Understanding. Not Asking. Not Getting Along.

Mark 9: 30-37
Not Understanding. Not Asking. Not Getting Along.
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church

Not Understanding. Not Asking. Not Getting Along. In speaking of personal surrender to God, Oswald Chambers writes, "I became thrilled with something infinitely greater than myself.

Not Understanding
In the Gospel of Mark, this is the second, of three times, where Jesus defines the nature and character of the Son of Man. He re-states, "The Son of Man will be betrayed, killed, and on three dies, be raised from the dead." This definition finds resistance among those closest to Jesus, for it does not match their expectations.

From the post-Easter perspective, we claim that we would get it. Yet, we must remember that to believe after having heard it came true is much different than believing, before it came to pass.

Yet, even in the post-Easter perspective, the Christian tradition has struggled with defining the Son of Man and what he requires of us. There are, for example the Nomian and Anti-nomian struggles. The Nomian--the commandment driven, legalistic, law centered approach to understanding God and discipleship. The Anti-nomian--the love oriented, suspend the rules out of love for the other, acceptance through love approach to understanding God and discipleship.

We are an eclectic smattering of both approaches. I have my definitions, my beliefs about God. I prefer to think that the values that I draw from these definitions are reflective of who God is, but it is possible that I have chosen values that serve me well, and then laid them over God, expecting God to conform.

Gerhard Forde speaks of these definitions as masks we place over God. God, with divine omnipotence, power, all authority, is an overwhelming burden of judgment upon us. We mask God. Our definitions of God are the masks.

Jesus, as he offers the definition of the Son of Man, as one who is betrayed, killed, and is raised from the dead, unmasks God. When God is unmasked, we are terrified.

Not Asking.
We hear that the disciples, not understanding, were afraid to ask. Too terrified to ask.

What does this mean?

Martin Luther, in his explanation of the Lord's Prayer, offers this comment on the petition of "give us this day our daily bread."

God provides without us having to ask, yet it is good for us to ask. It is good for us to ask, for then we are reminded from whom our daily bread comes. God is the source of our very lives and all that sustain our very lives. God provides for us all that is good for us, including his Son. The God of whom we are afraid is a God who is good.

Not Getting Along.
Holding onto and defending a definition of the Son of Man, too afraid to have God revealed and unmasked in any other form, the followers of Jesus find themselves with a narrow definition of discipleship. This definition of discipleship is rooted in the paradigm of winner and losers. When defining discipleship, the argument turns to "Who is the greatest follower, most consistent with the definition of Son of Man?"

Dietrich Bonhoeffer. "Violence stands condemned by its failures to evoke counter violence." I would say that the word anger could be inserted in place of the word violence. Anger is condemned when it fails to bring about an equal or greater level of anger in the other person. If you want to convince a person, who has done something wrong, that he or she is right, then be angry with him or her. At an expression of anger, the person who has done something wrong will find all of the physical and emotional systems engaging, be offended, and become convinced he is right. Blow your horn at another driver who has illegally turned in front of you, and the other driver will yell at you. Being angry at another convinces the person he is right.

In that, we find the age old division of humanity--those who hold positions of honor and those who are reduced to shame. The desired position is honor, of being right, of recognition, of contentment with self. In order for one to be in a position of honor, more than likely another person will have to be shamed, relegated to a place of being wrong, opposed, and labeled undesirable.

Were there to be a power that would overturn this carnal desire? Where the first would be last and the last would be first. Where life brings about death and death brings about life.

Through the Word of God, God's righteous kingdom is established on earth. A new world order is established. As God is unmasked in the death and resurrection of Jesus, God redefines human life, and life for all creation. All eyes are on God, as all people stand in the same place, on the same plane, in the unity of faith.

Arts and Music
I do not have to work very hard to make a case that we live in a divided time, full of disagreements of what is right and wrong. I do, however, want to point out a symptom of a divisive time that we may not normally consider. In divisive times, parts of our culture that unify people are victims of budget cuts. One area of cuts is the area of the arts. I want to speak in particular about the musical arts today.

Most of us, if asked to recall a picture in our minds of community responses after the 9-11 attacks, would remember the Congress gathered together on the steps of the Capitol building. And what is it they did there? They sang God Bless America. I think that the more poignant piece of that moment is not asking for God's blessings--which is most desirable--but that they were joined in song. Male and female, gay and straight, hawk and dove, democrat and republican. Music, especially collective singing, unifies.

In communal singing, much the same in instrumental music, people full of their own oddities, can, for a brief moment, be on the same page, be of one voice, in full harmony with one another. In that moment of harmony, we experience beauty. Perhaps, in that moment of beauty, our imaginations will be inspired to something greater than ourselves.

Surrender to God, wrote Chambers, is to be thrilled with something infinitely greater than myself.

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