A young woman is given a promise. The eyes of an old man find delight in a baby boy. A man returns to his hometown and unsettles his neighbors. A member of an outsider’s household is healed. A woman uses her hair to wash a teacher’s feet. And in each moment, God’s salvation was revealed. God’s saving activity isn’t just something that happened long ago on a hill outside Jerusalem. It’s not just something that will happen one day when we die. In Jesus, God has enrolled each one of us in the salvation project, whereby goodness, life, peace, and hope are unleashed on the world.
Things were going fine. They weren’t great by any stretch of the imagination, but they were fine. Predictable. Familiar. Then God shows up. Technically speaking it was angels first, Gabriel solo and then a whole host of them. Then God decided to intrude into the ordinary. God chose to become one of us. We didn’t ask for this. We didn’t know we needed it until he came, and now we join with God’s people of every time and place and pray that God would intrude again. Come Lord Jesus!
At first, you handle it with a bit of awe, bordering on reverence. After all, someone else has entrusted you with it. They’ve given it to you to use for a while, so you’re extra careful. You don’t want it to get smudged, chipped, or ruined. But the longer you have it, the more cavalier you become. You start to act like it’s yours. Pretty soon you start to believe it’s yours. And then…
We try. Our words fall short. Language, any language is insufficient. We try to describe the indescribable, to depict the unimaginable. Because we believe that the unknowable God desires to know us, to love us, to be in a relationship with us. God has given us some clues, some signposts to help us understand who God is and who God isn’t. In this life, we can’t know God completely, but we know enough about who God Is(n’t) to grow, to learn and to love.
Relegating God to an idea or a spiritual concept doesn’t do us much good. God in the abstract can at times seem attractive. We can keep our distance. Think about God when it’s convenient or interesting. But when things get tough, when life gets challenging, ideas don’t do us much good. We need someone who shows up, who renews relationships. We need someone who stirs things up. We need someone whose love knows no limits. We need Jesus.
The journey is long. There are going to be some tough climbs, some deep descents. There’s no telling what’s in store around the next bend. You’re gonna want some sturdy shoes. They’re critical partners along this path. Essential support that help you to keep putting one foot in front of the other. They help you move beyond the familiar. They help you stand with confidence, grounded in your new identity. A good pair of shoes can help you weather the storms as you follow your call. Lace up. We’re on the move.
You’re it. You’re the only one left who knows, who has heard, who has been drawn into a remarkable story. You. In Mark’s gospel there’s an empty tomb, the women don’t know the resurrected Jesus never makes an appearance. It’s just you. How are you going to live when you know that life not death wins, when the story is still unfolding and you’re a part of it. What will be different, now that you know, it’s down to you?
“Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
The self-centered disciples ask who will be the greatest, what’s in it for them. The fickle crowds are amazed by the miraculous, but wonder when Jesus’ words become challenging. Are we any different? We say we are willing to follow Jesus, but how far are we willing to go? Will we give our money, our time, our lives? We think we want to follow, but…to what end?