I’m good, responding to a friend’s question over dinner one night. I know you’re good they said to me, but how are you? I’m so busy, I sighed, work is off the hook at the moment, all this stuff is happening and it’s just incredible. After about 15 minutes of intense work conversation, and I could see them slowly glaze over. With all the compassion a dear friend can muster, they looked at me and said “just stop.” Just stop, please. I was thrown, what do you mean “Just stop?” I mean, they said, just stop: who are you trying to impress? I was asking about how you were doing, and you only talked about work. How are you doing? Well yes, but work is a lot of what makes up my world, it's my greatest passion…. They cut me off. How are YOU doing. Realizing I had no more space to move around the question, I answered from the heart: I struggle to relax, I feel like there’s all this pressure to be, see, and do things. You think with all this following Jesus you do, they said to me, you’d eventually actually learn from his example. Jesus lived differently, so why can’t you? I’ve never been so touched by a question before. Jesus lived differently, so why can’t you? Our readings this morning give us something to think about when we lean into that question.
Jesus lived differently, so why can’t you?
Can you remember a time when nothing was open on a Sunday? Where you’d get a snide comment or look in the coffee shop, or phone call from the pastor if you were not in church on Sunday? Can you remember a time when church, being the only place open on Sunday, was the place everyone came? Where it became a social club, with great picnics, social tea’s, lazy days in the park, and a sermon that was preached in under 5 minutes amongst a liturgy that took exactly an hour- and no more? Can you also remember a time when women were not allowed to preach or preside, kids were seen and not heard, and men were the only bread winners for families? All of these were practices based on social conceptions of laws and customs in the bible. And while it's easy to sit here and look back into history and judge those practices as antiquated that would miss the point. As Christians, we try in our imperfect ways to understand and live with our best selves the life God destined for us, a life understood through scripture. While I celebrate the movement of history to fully embrace the incredible giftedness of all genders, the life giving spirituality of kids, and the beginning of equality in the workplace, if we boil faith down to laws, ins and outs, lines in the sand, we lose the humanity Christ is talking about in Mark's gospel this morning.
The Gospel of Mark is a wonderful action packed experience of Christ’s life. Not even three chapters in, and Jesus is already running up against people who do not appreciate his style or message. Remember, faith for us at this point in Marks world would have been a very binary thing. We have the laws, you follow the laws you are good. Don't follow them, and there is an issue and yet Jesus was preaching a way of freedom that challenged the assumptions of a busy life. He never rejected the belief of those he met, rather he called them into a renewed way of looking at what the laws ask of us. Jesus points out for us in this mornings Gospel, just how easy it is for us to Judge each other for never meeting our own standards of piety- something we have all done. That moment when we think we can do something better than another person, or expect them to do it the same way we do it, or that there is only one way to do church and its our own personal way. Rather, Mark is asking us you, and I, how we might use the gifts we have been given for life within community, how might we see Sabbath and the laws of faith as a gift to the world just like Christ’s life is to us?
If our understandings of faith become ways to measure each other, rather than encounter and celebrate each other, we lose touch with Jesus. If we see the work we do in this place as just that, work, and not a re-orientating of our lives, heart, and eyes into the Kingdom of God- manifest in the life of Jesus, then we ought to just close. Institutions such as the church serve only one purpose, according to today's Gospel, and that is to serve its non-members. We are here today in order to see in our Sabbath who else needs rest, needs help, needs our compassion, empathy, and presence. The only way we can see those things is by allowing our lives to be conformed to the cross of Christ, which is foreshadowed in the disagreements of our gospel this morning. Rather than hearing and learning from Christ, we seek ways to kill him with our busy work, with our lives that only mean something when they are producing results, experiencing things, and visibly seen. Yet Jesus lived differently, so why can’t we?
Take heart we are not alone. More and more studies are showing that our isolation and desolation come from our increased connectivity and productivity- everything in our lives is measured, yet as Christians our only measure is Jesus-so how can we live like Jesus? Let's start living together now.
- I invite you to think of one thing you can safely identify as a distraction from life that you can let go of this week. Just one thing. It could be a meeting, the feeling of not being enough, your need to be appreciated by others. Write just one thing you can safely let go of this week as a distraction to living a Jesus life.
- I invite you to think of one thing you can do in order to live a Jesus life. It might be taking that hour walk by the ocean, allowing yourself time alone, seeing that friend you’ve not seen in awhile, making your favorite meal and lavishing yourself in God's time. What's one thing you can do in order to live a Jesus life?
Over this week, email me with whatever you want to tell me about your week. I want to know how this worked for you. What did you let go, what did you start, to live into life with Jesus?
Jesus calls us to be stewards of this life we are given, to take care of our actions, or passions, and our bodies, so that we can be the engines through which the kingdom of God is continually birthed into our present time.Living a Sabbath orientated life means that we accept that we can’t do this alone and that we need moments where we can recharge without guilt, or judgment on ourselves or others. A Sabbath life is about resisting the call to be busy, to fill our days off with mindless errands and chores, but to be intentional about how we choose to see our time and activity. A Sabbath life is lived looking through the eyes of Christ, seeing God in the laundry, the gas pump, the walk, and the glass of wine on our back porch at sunset. When we begin to look through the eyes of Christ at the world around us, we move and are transformed by inviting ourselves to lavish in Gods time with intention rather than distraction.
Come, rest, see, feel, hear, and be. Mark your life with Sabbath, a time of re-creation and deeper transformation into God’s time. Jesus lived differently, seeing God in the midst of everything he did, and as the source of everything he is- so what’s stopping you?