Saturday, December 1, 2012

Voting for a Lost Cause--Faithful Presence

Voting for a Lost Cause--Faithful Presence


"You are not far from the kingdom of God." These are the words of Jesus to the Scribe who asked him about the greatest commandment. Not far would seem to indicate close, but not quite. In this series of blogs, I have asked the question, "What are the stumbling blocks to presence in the kingdom of God?" I looked at three stumbling blocks that could be gleaned from the earlier verses of Mark 12. These stumling blocks are highlighted by Clifton Black in his commentary on Mark printed by Abingdon Press.



The stumbling blocks were:

            1. Religious ritual that leads to exclusion of others from the faith community.

            2. Trusting in government to change the world.

            3. Claiming that political parties and ideologies are holders of truth.



Earlier in Mark, Jesus affirms the Scribe by saying, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." When we come to the end of Mark, we hear Jesus caution his listeners to beware of the Scribes who engage in religious practices in which the outcome is the exploitation of those most vulnerable. In this case, the vulnerable one is the widow. Following these words of caution, Jesus calls attention to a widow who is giving all her financial resources to the temple treasury. Counter to his caution of the presence of the scribes, Jesus lifts up the widow as one who embodies faithfulness--one who is in the kingdom of God.


The widow is reminiscent of the widow of Zarapheth. The prophet Elijah puts her life and that of her son in jeopardy by asking for a share of their final meal. In an act of faith, she concedes. From that day on, we read in the story of our people, her jar of grain never ran out and her jar of oil never went dry. We have the presence of one who embodies faithfulness whose life impacts the lives of others, unlike the scribes whose presence devours others.


Oswald Chambers writes, "One of the hardest lessons to learn comes from our stubborn refusal to refrain from interfering in other people's lives. It take a long time to realize the danger of being an amateur providence, that is, interfering with God's plan for others." Chambers speaks of acts of heroism which are momentary and bring public attention to the hero. He writes, "It's one thing to go through a crisis grandly, yet quite another to go through every day glorifying God when there is no witness, no limelight, and no one paying even the remotest attention to us...If you are properly devoted to the Lord Jesus, you have reached the lofty height where no one would ever notice you personally. All that is noticed is the power of God coming through you all the time."


Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes in Life Together, "Spiritual love...will not seek to agitate another by exerting all too personal, direct influence or by crudely interfering in one's life. It will not take pleasure in pious, emotional fervor and excitement. Rather, it will encounter the other with the clear word of God and be prepared to leave the other alone with this word for a long time. It will be willing to release others again so that Christ may deal with them. It will respect the other as the boundary tht Christ establishes between us; and it will find full community with the other in the Christ who alone binds us together."


The presence of one person, through the kingdom of God, who embodies faithfulness will have transformative power on those around them, without controlling, manipulating, rescuing, and consuming the other person.


This emobodied faithfulness has transformative impact on marriage relationships, parenting, work places, neighborhoods, churches, and governments.

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