#WorthIt is the reflection for March 1, 2015. Is faith about getting something in return? What exactly are the benefits of faith? What happens when what you thought was going to happen turns bad? Find out why we should believe and what makes us qualified. #MSAWordfortheDay #MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Homily #FaithbeyondReason, #TheGoodWife #BeyondMaterial #BenefitsKnownAfterBelief
For listener supported MySpiritualAdvisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 3/1/2015 The 2nd Sunday of Lent.
Please pause this audio and read Mark 8:31-38.
I want to start out with a reminder that today we are following the Protestant readings for this Sunday. If you would like to hear the reflection on the Transfiguration, featured in the Catholic Mass for this Sunday, please listen to the podcast entitled “He’s Got This” published two weeks ago.
For today, I want to start by talking about my first stint as a political staffer for a congressional candidate. I was all of 20, soon to be 21. I had dropped out of college and returned home. The county party chairman knew of my work in organizing a petition drive and recommended me to the congressional candidate. I have to admit, I was star crossed. All my life I had thought I wanted to run for Congress. I had started working on political campaigns when I was four years old when my sister drug me along as she volunteered. I loved it.
My view of politics then was glamourous. I saw the candidates speaking. I saw the signs, the banners, the bunting. I saw the people laughing. I saw the teams of people walking neighborhoods for a cause. It was great! I loved it. I also loved the idea that I was making a difference in this great country of ours. I was all caught up in being a part of something greater than myself.
What I didn’t see or know was that being the office manager of six congressional campaign offices meant that I was at work at 6 a.m. and didn’t get home until midnight. My family thought I was crazy to work for such little money. I smoked three packs of cigarettes and drank probably three pots of coffee a day to keep going. I didn’t know we had to root out moles from the campaign staff, or keep the candidate from going off message, or keep the candidate in a room making phone calls to ask for money. Much of it I took in stride and learned to love because I was doing it for the cause of my candidate.
Did I mention that we won by 1,500 votes on election night. The election was contested and there was a recount. After 60 days of waiting and providing “evidence”, we lost by 46 votes. It was the closest election in the country that year. It was a far cry better than what was predicted to happen, but we still lost.
The reason I mentioned it is because in the Gospel reading from Mark 8 for this Sunday, we have Jesus shifting his operation to another level. For 7 chapters, Mark has been telling us about how Jesus was healing the sick, driving out demons, calling people to repentance, gathering a following, and outraging the scribes, Pharisees and elders. From an American teenage viewpoint, Jesus was the ultimate idealistic radical: everything is going to work out if we just follow that guy.
The people who followed him were much like I was when the county chairman asked me to run the offices of a congressional campaign at 20 years of age. Everyone was starry eyed at Jesus. So, when Jesus changes the tone there was bound to be blow back.
I can just hear the thoughts of Peter as he heard Jesus telling the inner circle the low down: we are going to suffer. We are going to be rejected by the church. We are going to be killed. All this will happen because of what we are going to do and believe. I can hear the voice in Peter’s head screaming, “NO! That is NOT going to happen, Jesus.”
In a world where we are always trying to give money to people who are in “the sciences and math,” it is hard to put a value on things that are not quantifiable, nor at times an improvement on the material life of people. The question remains, is it possible to be poor and happy? Is it possible to be hated and doing well? Is life about living in the suburbs with a couple of cars, kids, and everything working out the way you thought it would?
These apostles have followed Jesus through all kinds of adventures up to this point. Everything went well and according to plan, it seemed. Now, here we are half way through the journey that God is revealing to us through Mark and we have a jolt. It is going to end badly here on earth. Jesus is going to die. We who have been following him are going to be rejected and killed. In what sense is this worth it if our focus is on the material and the quantifiable all the time?
I once gave spiritual direction to an atheist who asked me what is the main reason to believe in God. I acknowledged that even those who don’t follow God receive his blessings. I acknowledged that some who follow Christ are especially afflicted with woe. I was not deterred, but said, “The best reason to believe in God is because he exists. The way we know it is that we are all wired to even ask the question.” Finally, I said, “It is not about results, it is about God.”
Really the only result that we can give any credence to is the fact that believing in God satisfies the insatiable quest for meaning and purpose in life that nothing else can give. Resurrection from the dead is the only solace that can be given to those who have been rejected by the world, their families, and most cutting of all, the church.
It didn’t dawn on me until I was at my first ministerial association meeting when I realized that being hated by members of the congregation or parish was part of the job. Who knew that people would hate you when you were the pastor? When I felt the call, people were just so encouraging. Then when I became a pastor, it seemed the same type of people turned on me.
In the television show, “The Good Wife”, the tables have surely turned since the days of early television. The odd duck in the whole scenario is Grace Florrick, the daughter of the woman at the center of the show, Alicia Florrick. I posted a clip from the show at the beginning of this podcast.
Grace, a convert, gently confronts her mother’s atheism as she gives her mother information about being a Christian to prep mom for a political debate. “I have never felt the need,” said the character Alicia Florrick. Belief in God is one of the most ironic things in the world. You never knew you needed to believe until you did. You never knew life was so empty until you were filled by the Spirit. You never knew you could make it through all those awful times until you had the armor of Salvation. All the benefits of being a Christian only really mean anything AFTER you believe.
One of the ways Grace could have explained faith to her mother is in the relationship that they have. They don’t always agree on things, but they love each other. They have a connection and will always be open to one another. The love will always be there. Grace will always do whatever she can for the good of her mother. It is the same with those of us in a relationship with God.
Our faith is a relationship. We disagree with God sometimes, some of us all the time, but we trust him. We know that he walks with us through bad times. We know he gives us silver linings and even the grand prize. We know that the soul is worth more than we could ever imagine. There is something about the dignity of being human that justifies a man willing to suffer, be rejected by the church and authorities, and being willing to die. Our essence is worth that much and more.
No matter how much we degrade ourselves, shame ourselves, deny ourselves our dignity, we know that we are worth so much more. We know we deserve to walk in life beyond being objects of exploitation. We know that we deserve to be loved. We know that there is something more than just this life here on earth and that those who are evil in this world will not get to see it. We know these things in our heart and soul. We know because we are the species on the planet that asks the question.
These are the things that cause us to strive for beauty. These are the things that cause us to reach higher and reject those things that are not right. These are the truths which cause us to work for justice. These are the truths which tell us that there is worth in more than just the utilities of life that take us “somewhere”, like we all know where “somewhere” is.
We know that life is worth living in whatever form it presents itself to us. Even Jesus had opposition. Even Jesus had rejection. Even Jesus had struggle. Even Jesus had death. The chosen one of God was not chosen to be free of any of these things. The chosen one of God was chosen to lead. Leadership brings the worst out of people who don’t want to follow. It is the nature of humanity since Adam. Yet, through all that the world has to throw in its vaunted self-importance, Jesus beats them with the spiritual, the ultimate meaning of life: salvation.
So, in the midst of this Lent, as we reflect on the pains, the hurts, the rejections, and everything else we have had to endure because of our faith. We can know that it is all worth it and has value because even God suffered. We can stand firm and not be ashamed. We can say, “I am Christian. I am strong. I am saved.” Amen.
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