Hi hunnies, I'm home!
In this week’s gospel lesson (Mark 8: 27-38) Jesus’ announcement of his own impending death is a warm fuzzy place for the preacher to focus. Not that Jesus’ death was in any way warm and fuzzy. In any sane system of movie rating, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ would have been rated NC-17. However, focusing on Jesus’ death, and particularly on the sacrificial aspect of Jesus’ death, it is entirely possible for the preacher skip the much more difficult portion of the periscope: the demand that the believer take up his/her own cross.In 2009, Judith Simonson invited readers of Homily Service to reflect upon the harder part of the passage, not by holding it up as an exhortation to patience in the midst of unavoidable suffering, but as a call to a much more proactive engagement with the forces of evil.
Jesus means deliberately putting ourselves in the way of those who would victimize others, taking on burdens that we could avoid but doing it out of love, and generally living in the world as though the kingdom of God had already come. It is at those times that the kingdom does truly break into the world. The reality, of course, is that those who see themselves as the present rulers of the kingdom will feel threatened and often take steps to defend themselves.There is no point in pretending that this is always a joyful, beautiful thing. In my experience, the higher the stakes, the more uncomfortable it is. I well remember the time it happened to me in the context of giving a deposition in a lawsuit. At some point the plaintiff’s lawyer leaned in and asked me, in a very friendly, confidential manner, to tell him my opinion of the defendant’s guilt or innocence. Now, I knew that my opinion on the matter was irrelevant, and I refused to answer. The friendliness disappeared. I was threatened with contempt. Shaking and in a cold sweat, I replied that my dog had died and I had a clean hankie so I was prepared to go to jail.
Have you ever deliberately put yourself in the way of power? What happened?
Judith Simonson, Homily Service 42:4, 19.
Judith Simonson is Assistant Director for Ministry in Chaplaincy, Pastoral Counseling, Clinical Education (MCPCCE) for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.