|Crowds are not my thing. I get lost in the sea of people who seem cooler than I. Sometimes I remember who I am and stay centered. I see people who love their kid. Like I do. I am open to conversations with strangers. We find commonalities and connections. But it doesn’t come naturally. |
We are not all having the same experience, I think, as I read the Bible on my phone. Does it say what I thought the Lord was prompting me to notice? I check a different translation, comparing old to new, literal to colloquial. I am surrounded by a hundred volleyball courts of cheering parents and blowing whistles. Yet I hear the message pretty clearly and would like to write it down, but opening my laptop here would be bizarre. I do the one-finger-typing-thing in my phone Notes.
A guest teacher is on her way from Iowa. She was sick earlier this week, but her prayer warriors went to work and now she is better. My father operates on old information; he texts that I will likely be called upon to teach the following day. His encouragement- that the Spirit is leading me, that I am following Jesus, that God is using me- still helps. I don’t mention that I won’t have to fill in after all. It is nice to have a head start on next week.
Our team is back on the court for the afternoon session when I get the word. Accidents on the road. The guest teacher is safe, but returning home. I am back on deck to teach in less than 24 hours. I am oddly not surprised. I feel strangely calm. I’ve got one scripture, a few phrases on my phone, a day of volleyball ahead, and am two hours from home with more snow predicted.
It all comes together. Sunday is a whirlwind of God’s faithfulness. By Monday I am back in mundane reality, trying to make sense of it. I try to articulate for my nun this dissonance between my experience and (what seems like) other people’s reality. I am a bit disturbed. God’s faithfulness does not always increase my own faith; sometimes it feels more like a drunken spree, and I am having a Monday morning hangover. I am worried by this, and hesitant to speak or write it.
My nun, God bless her, is not disturbed at all. She seems rather invigorated by my story of the certainty of God’s direction, and the subsequent uneasiness when I try to reconcile my experience with the “regular” world around me. This is prevalent throughout scripture and history, she says. It is the process of our ongoing conversion, though we think we have already been converted. She points me to Jesus; that was his experience too.
Jesus entered a house. A crowd gathered again so that it was impossible for him and his followers even to eat. When his family heard what was happening, they came to take control of him. They were saying, “He’s out of his mind!” The legal experts came down from Jerusalem. Over and over they charged, “He’s possessed by Beelzebul. He throws out demons with the authority of the ruler of demons.” Mark 3:20-22(CEB)
Jesus is having a particular experience. The power of God is flowing through him to teach and to heal. The crowds love it; they are caught up in his reality. But his family sees it differently. Jesus has lost his mind. And the religious establishment observes his behavior and sees, not God, but demons. How does Jesus trust his own truth? When it goes against what those who know him best, and what the church leaders (who theoretically know God best), say is true? Jesus was pretty centered. Knowing who he was, trusting his relationship with God, even when the people he should have been able to trust tried to stop him.
What if my parents and siblings assessed my work and felt compelled to stage an intervention? How would I manage if my nun and all the retired pastors in my life told me that I was serving the devil instead of the Lord? Would I trust my own sense of reality, my personal relationship with God? I don’t think so. I would likely concede that I had gone over the edge.
So, whom do we trust when our experience, our reality, doesn’t seem to match that of those around us? This isn’t a clinical test for sanity. But when it comes to spiritual things, perhaps we listen to those who recognize and do good, regardless of whether they follow rules of who can do what, when, and where.
Looking around at those seated around him in a circle, he said, “Look, here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does God’s will is my brother, sister, and mother.”
If we follow Jesus, there will be a dissonance between our experience and the things going on around us. Sometimes it might feel, or look, kind of crazy. Sometimes it is hard to see reality through the eyes of faith. Apparently, this should not surprise us. It is mysteriously part of our ongoing conversion.
So today I am grateful. For family and friends who are also looking for God’s work in the world and endeavoring to be part of it. For the experience of God’s faithfulness, even when it is hard to keep faith. And that whoever may forsake us, with God we are never alone.
Order of Service: 1/27
Sermon: Through Deeds of Justice and Mercy, May We Become One Living Body