Tuesday, September 8, 2009

From The Rock to a Screaming Match-What It Means to Me

This week's scriptures are isaiah 50:4-9 and Mark 8:27-38.

This week's passage from Mark sounds so much like us to me that I can hardly stand it. Why? Because here, in the middle of all the misunderstanding in the preceding passages, and the arguing afterward with Jesus about what is going to happen....here is that singular flash of understanding. It won't last long. It won't stop Peter just moments later from screaming at Jesus-and Jesus screaming back, by the way-when He tries to explain what's coming. But it's there. For one brief, shining moment....Peter gets it. And that moment, I think, will carry him through the darkness that is to come. For one magnificent moment Peter knows. From the top of his tingling head, down his spine to his quickly beating heart, and through his toes curling into the sand at his feet......he knows.

And then.....it's gone.....sorta. It's a knowledge so great that he can't take it all in. But it's a knowledge that hangs around; hovering in the corners of his heart, whispering from the edges of his mind. It's a knowledge that will shape the rest of his life. From his "where else would we go, you have the words of life" in the passage from John a few weeks ago, to "You are the Messiah."

It's also a knowledge that will torment and judge him when he fails. When he denies knowing Jesus; when he moves away from the gentiles at table later in the early church.

But I also think that it is a knowledge that shapes his compassion. It opens him up to the dream he will get in Acts that convinces him that the gospel was for all; to go to the house of Cornelius; and when challenged by leaders in Jerusalem, to share his dream and his understanding. (Acts 10:1-11:18)

Peter was a man who was a mixture of anger and care; impulsivity and thoughtfulness; boldness and fear. He did not always live out the understanding that burst out of him that day. And he agonized over his failures. Sounds a bit like you and me doesn't it.

In our Isaiah passage we find the words, "The Lord God has given me the tongue of one who has been instructed to console the weary with a timely word; he made my hearing sharp every morning, that I might listen like one under instruction" (5o:4) We can 'console others with a timely word', and 'listen like one under instruction' because we both know who Jesus is; and know our own shortcomings. One gives us hope...the other gives us compassion. We find that in our journey...our rising and falling, our sudden, brilliant flashes where God breaks through...just for the moment, our struggles to reach toward what we're called to be...the experiences shape our response to others.

Two quotes for you. Two of my favorites (which means you've probably heard them before, and WARNING!-you'll probably hear them again):

"Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry the message to those that still suffer; and to practice these principles in all our affairs" (the 12th Step of AA and other 12 Step programs)

"He consoles us in all our troubles, so that we in turn may be able to console others in any trouble of theirs and to share with them the consolation we ourselves have recieved from God." (2 Corinthians 1:4)

I've rambled a bit today. But our lives ramble as well. There is rarely a straight line in our lives or our journey of faith. We fall, we rise. We tend our own wounds, we reach out to tend the wounds of others. Most of all...we trust....because we know. We've been given that moment when we too could say, "You are the Christ, where else could we go."

See you Sunday.

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