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Living the Word

Get It Straight
By Peter B. Price
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Let’s get it straight: Living God’s way in the world is not for the faint-hearted. Our readings in the next few weeks challenge our discipleship, calling to its very foundations. We are invited to face our prejudice, to analyze our motives for doing good, to reflect on our seemingly endless capacity for conflict, to observe our desire for status, as well as our murmuring and moaning against God when the least thing upsets our way of doing things. And as they say in the movies, "We’re the good guys!"

Most of us suffer from spiritual blindness. Bartimaeus, who was blind, called out to Jesus, but before Jesus could restore his sight he had to find out if that is what Bartimaeus wanted— "What do you want me to do for you?" "That I may receive my sight," he replied. Let’s get it straight: What do you want me to do for you? is the same question Jesus asks of us.

October 19
God Hits Back
Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35; Job 38:1-7, 34-41; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:35-45

"Man bites dog," runs a famous newspaper headline. It is meant to take our notice because it is a reversal of what we expect. "God hits back" could well have been the headline of tabloid writers following Job’s arguments with God. "‘Who is this obscuring my intentions with his ignorant words?...I am going to ask the questions, and you are going to inform me!’" says God (Job 38:2-3). God searchingly questions Job about the order of creation, the universe, and everything else, concluding with the knockout punchline: "Have you grasped the celestial laws? Could you make their writ run on the Earth?" (Job 38:33). Contemplating the creation, the psalmist is moved to praise, "How countless are your works, Lord; all of them made so wisely!" (Psalm 104:24).

Most of us do not naturally contemplate God. Like the disciples we tend to offer the kind of prayers that ask God "to do us a favor" (Mark 10:35). Status and influence are more to us than spirituality. We find it hard to hear the question that goes alongside true holiness, "Can you drink the cup that I shall drink, or be baptized with the baptism with which I shall be baptized?" (Mark 10:38). Even if like the disciples we answer the question by saying "We can," Jesus reveals that that, in itself, does not guarantee a reward that we can calculate ahead of its being granted.

Serving God demands the same generosity of spirit with which God serves us. God provides a creation that never ceases to amaze because of its fecundity, or the cosmos by its immensity. The same God provides an exemplar in his Son coming "not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). The reward even for Jesus is service: "Christ did not give himself the glory of becoming a high priest, but the one who said to him, ‘You are my Son; today I have fathered you’" (Hebrews 5:5).

There is a great paradox here: When we are obedient to God’s calling we learn, like Jesus, through suffering (Hebrews 5:8). The reward is service, and to share with Jesus "the source of eternal salvation" (5:9). The last word is always with God!

Reflection and Action

When have you been forced out of self-obsession into contemplating the wonder of God’s universe? Have you ever sensed God asking you questions? What were they? Can you look at any experience of suffering from which you have learned?

PETER B. PRICE is general secretary of the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, an Anglican mission agency based in London, and practices—with his wife, Dee—a ministry of hospitality. Reflections on the complete, three-year lectionary cycle can be found in the resource Living the Word, available from Sojourners Resource Center (1-800-714-7474).

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