The Call to Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark, Day 42As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean. Then they asked him, ‘Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’ He said to them, ‘Elijah is indeed coming first to restore all things. How then is it written about the Son of Man, that he is to go through many sufferings and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written about him.’ Mark 9:9-13
"You can't go forward if your looking back. You run into walls that way." Karen Marie MoningHow do we move forward in the face of suffering? How do we move forward in the face of contempt? How do we move forward when they (the crowd, the political authorities, the religious authorities, the people you are called to serve) do whatever they please? How do you go forward if your looking back?
A couple of months ago I received a letter inviting me to let go, to release the past in order to move forward. I was annoyed, hurt because of who it was from, and probably not ready to hear the words, because I have been struggling with how to let go of the suffering you experience as a pastor in churches that have been hurt and hurt the next person who holds the job. Part of me looks back to the moment in my ecclesiastical council when a minister asked me about the cross and how I would take it up to follow. Partly he asked this question because my ordination paper was flowers and rainbows. Ok not that bad but it was pretty cheerful and I was excited and ready to begin. So when he said, "You don't have anything about how you will be taking up your cross." I know that in my paper I had skirted the issue of suffering and taking up our cross. Partly because as a good Congregationalist I had questions, lots of questions about the Risen Christ but was totally gaga for Jesus. I also didn't feel like I was going to be persecuted for my faith or faith real trials. So I know I answered his question by saying something about being a pk and knowing that saying yes to ministry was a long process because I knew many of the downsides of ministry.
But I didn't get it then. I was to full of hope and ready to get started. Since then I have definitely taken up my cross. I have experienced how cruel people can be to each other when they are part of God's church. I have received hate mail, emails that make one weep with sadness, threats and insults. None of the things I expected from people I was called to be the pastor and teacher to. The cross seemed so far away and yet having been a pastor for ten years it is so close with just one wrong word, one misstep, one mistake and conflict boils over.
So how do you move forward in the face of suffering, contempt, and where the people do whatever they please? Each day I get up, I look with longing forward to the next place I am invited to come and serve. I know that Jesus is here with me in the suffering. I know there is more to come. That joy comes int he morning. That death is not the final answer. That resurrection is possible. For God is the God of second, third, fourth .... chances. Jesus shares in our suffering, is there with us when faced with contempt, where people do as they please. The cross is not the final answer. That even those of us who are invited to take up our crosses and follow will experience grace, forgiveness, hope.
Holy One when I am suffering, remind me that I am not alone. When I am feeling sorry for myself, remind me to look beyond myself to find you. When I am feeling despair, restore me to hope. God, remind me that I am not alone, that I am called. Help me to move forward. Be with me now and forever more.
Don't Give Up by John Legend, Pink, Herbie Hancock