Saturday, July 25, 2009

Seeking, Serving, Saving

Listening to Mike Card’s nice bluegrass tune “Walking on the Water,” I focused my thoughts on what Jesus was telling Peter to do: step out of the safety of the boat into the waves of a raging sea. What an illustration of the more abstract saying of Jesus: the one who seeks to save his life will lose it, but the one who gives his life for my sake will find it. This theme has recurred in my readings recently (and not surprisingly, since it’s such a foundational truth of Christian Faith).

One of my morning readings had these words:

For the world, to love is to enjoy yourself; it thinks in its selfishness that love consists above all in receiving consolation, satisfaction, etc. It is exactly the contrary: love is nourished by giving, by self-sacrifice, with the holy fuel of suffering.

For a soul that really loves the Lord, of what importance are honors, wealth, social position, the future, suffering, and even death itself? The important thing is that Jesus is pleased, even though the soul suffers; that he rejoices, even though the soul weeps. When a person truly loves, the “ego” disappears and dies so that Jesus alone may live within the heart.

I was reminded of a passage from Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain (one of my recent reads). Shortly before taking the step of entering the Trappist monastery he was reflecting on his then-current position of teaching (as a secular) at St. Bonaventure’s. He had been challenged to move to Harlem to live among the poor and vulnerable. Out of this situation came these words:

I could no longer doubt that St. Bonaventure’s had outlived its usefulness in my spiritual life. I did not belong there any more. It was too tame, too safe, too sheltered. It demanded nothing of me. It had no particular cross. It left me to myself, belonging to myself, in full possession of my own will, in full command of all that God had given me that I might give it back to Him. As long as I remained there, I still had given up nothing, or very little, no matter how poor I happened to be.

Yesterday I received a devotional email from Mike Card (this is something anyone may register to receive; see his website). He was reflecting on Jesus’ words: None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions, and followed with these thoughts:

Almost everyone who follows Jesus in the New Testament leaves something behind. Simon and the other disciples who were fishermen left their nets and boats. James and John, the sons of Zebedee, left their father as well as a prosperous family business. Matthew left behind an even more lucrative business, tax gathering. The woman at the well ran off and forgot her water jar. The sinful woman left behind an empty alabaster perfume jar. Lazarus, perhaps the most miraculous of all, left behind a pile of grave clothes and an empty tomb.

Getting out of a safe boat.... leaving a comfortable job situation.... leaving “stuff” behind (the Hebrews writer says lay aside every weight).... This is not a legalism, but there is the ongoing reality that Jesus does not want us to stay where we are –– at least not in spirit. When our “life in the kingdom” has become a comfortable rut, to what extent are we truly living in the kingdom of God?

What are we seeking? Who are we serving? What kind of life are we saving?

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