So, during this season of Lent, let us guard against getting spiritual high-altitude sickness as we hop from mountaintop to mountaintop, until we get to the cross on Mount Calvary. Remember that the only reason we go up the mountain is so that we can come back down to change lives, ours and others.’ We go up for perspective, so we can see things as God sees them. Then we come back down better equipped to deal with problems. We go up for power—not ours, but God’s—and come back down not to control others but to encourage them. We don’t go up for the glory; we come down to serve and give God the glory.
Belonging to Christ means all of us and every part of each of us—even the parts we don’t like—belong to the divine life that is coursing through our veins and pulsing through our world. The love, the laughter, the miracles and mercies, the good works and good memories, yes! But also the fears and tears, the sins and scars, the pain and the broken promises. All of it belongs to us, and it’s going to be ok, because we belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God. As Julian of Norwich said long ago, “And all shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”
God’s unconditional love for us is our spiritual baby food. It’s what gives us a healthy start in life. But God is waiting for us to grow up, waiting to give us the solid food of the Gospel, which is the grace to love God and our enemies, too. It is, after all, what Jesus died to show us how to do. [Romans 5:10]
We parents are left with the books and toys of their childhood and we will probably hang on to them, saving them for the grandchildren. As we box them up and put them in the garage or up in the attic, we will shed a tear or two. But the greatest gift we ever gave them was a front-row seat for our faith. And now is not the time to put that treasure in storage. We have to guard that good treasure so that we can keep passing it on to them.
Making a place for young adults to connect with each other and with God is super exciting, but also more than a little scary. For what guarantee do we have that if we really go after these lost lambs, we won’t get lost ourselves? Every time I hear a version of this fear, every time I myself think that we three churches have enough struggles and we don’t have the resources to make room for a new church nor do we have the strength numerically or financially or any other way to support a new congregation, I hear the words of Jesus ringing in my ear, loud and clear: “Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” [Mark 8:35] I am convinced that these are the words that have to guide everything we do at Willow Glen. If we want to be found, we are going to have to be willing to get lost.
The question that came to my mind this week about this story is, “Did Jesus really stop the storm or did he lead the disciples into the center of it where everything is still? You’ve heard about the eye of a hurricane, that space in the center of the storm where the wind and water are strangely calm. Chaos and destruction are still going on all around, but in the center the pressure goes way down and there is peace. In light of the hurricane this week, I hear Jesus saying, “You can’t escape all the storms in your life. You’re just going to have to live through them. So get in my boat. We’re not going to evade or evacuate. I am going to take you right into the center of this storm. You will be safe there with me. We’ll ride it out together.”
We may never have had this honest a relationship with another person, but it’s the only kind of relationship we can have with God. The real you. The real me. Total honesty. Deep intimacy. That’s all that God wants from any of us and from all of us. That’s why God keeps sending out servants to bring in more and more of us. And here we come, the good and the bad, all mixed together. No table manners? No worries. Christ is a patient teacher. The One who knows us will grow us and give us all the humility, charity and honesty we need. This is one banquet that doesn’t need a bouncer.
In Kaleidoscope last week, someone noticed that Jesus told the woman that she was free even before he laid hands on her, before he healed her, before she stood up straight. Could that be because he knew that he had to free her mind before he could free her body? He had to cast off that crippling spirit that had let her disability do so much damage to her sense of self. First she had to be set free from the lies that told her that there was no wholeness in her and that there could be no healing for her. At some point in our lives, haven’t we believed those lies? We all have to be mentally and spiritually ready to be physically healed.
Jesus warned them not to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. [Mark 3:29] I use to wonder what he meant. Now I’ve come to believe that we blaspheme against the Holy Spirit whenever we deny what is holy in ourselves or in others. The scribes denied that Jesus’ healing power was divine. They thought his power was diabolic. When any of us deny who we truly are, the power and the passion and the promise that God planted in each of us, we are blaspheming the Holy Spirit that is in us. Jesus refused to do that and so must we.
Coming home from a mission trip is always disorienting, even without mass shootings. Home doesn’t quite feel the same anymore. I’m probably not the only one who came back to Silicon Valley feeling like Abraham and Sarah, “strangers and foreigners on the earth.” Following Jesus by following Joe brought me to the realization that like Abraham, I am—we are—seeking a homeland, and it’s a shock to learn that this isn’t it. I love this nation, but the events of this past week only intensify the desire for “a better country” where God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.