April 21, 2007

Mark 10.28-31

At this Peter spoke. "We here," he said, "have left everything to become your followers."

Jesus said, "I tell you this: There is no one who has given up home, brothers or sisters, mother, father, or children, or land, for my sake and for the Gospel, who will not receive in this age a hundred times as much--homes, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and land--and persecutions besides; and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last and the last first."


At 7:07 a.m., Blogger david said...

the first will be last and the last first

q.v. Matthew 19:29-30 (essentially same context); see also parable following (explanation?) Matthew 20:1-16; Mark 9:35 (context: "the greatest among you issue); Luke 13:23-30 (context: "the narrow gate"); Revelation 1:8, 21:6 & 22:13 (the resurrected Christ's self-affirmations).

This saying appears multiple times embedded in different contexts. So the tradition(s) wants to preserve it -- even as it haggles over its meaning(s). I suspect THIS is authentically Jesus -- if not -- then the Christ-Spirit speaking consistently through multiple early prophets of the early Jesus movement.

I see here prophetic reversal: God's agenda is not our agenda. This is the household of God, God distributes the gifts/kudos/kills the fatted calf for whom God wills and not according humanly constructed priorities. I also see here a call to humility. Just because you have done much work for the gospel don't imagine you will receive greater hallelujahs when you get to heaven -- your work has been for the sake of others.

At 10:35 p.m., Blogger forrest said...

Okay, the last sentence has been the first one discussed here. So I'll start with David's last paragraph: All of us know that this is not about taking a bow at our curtain call. "Hallelujah" means "Praise the Lord," not "Look at that wonderful human God made!"--although certainly we've seen some souls clothed quite beautifully, rips & scuff-marks not withstanding.

But the actual theme of the passage is people who give up you-name-it for Jesus and the Gospel.

Okay, in 1st Century Israel we had Jesus on the lam, knowing the authorities would come for him whenever he stayed too long anywhere. If you ever hoped to see Jesus take his throne, you'd have to stay on the move as he did.

And now we're trying to fit statements about this to a different situation. Are we being advised to take to wandering?-- wandering as a place in consciousness, making ourselves "passers-by," as Thomas had it? That place called Wandering has huge gaps for possibility to enter--but for most people, it is not a suitable home.

Sometimes a person is called to an itinerate life, and it's a wonderful call, for them. But we don't all need to be so literal.

If we're lucky, we mentally "Leave our country and our kindred and our father's house" when we're quite young--But then it can take a long time to find ourselves at home anywhere.

What is this "Gospel" we're supposed to give up everything else for? It was our David who once pointed out Revelation 14.6 to me: "Then I saw an angel flying in mid-heaven, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those on earth, to every nation and tribe, language and people. He cried in a loud voice, 'Fear God and pay him homage; for the hour of his judgement is come! Worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the watersprings.' "

I'd rather trust God than "fear" God--but of course the point is to give God due respect, to fear none of his creations because none of them have independent power to help or harm us. If a "gospel" is an announcement of who claims to rule the world, then our gospel is that God has the true power. The other side of this announcement is that the one with true power is the very "Father" Jesus speaks of, one who does good to everybody.

This doesn't mean, of course, that we easily recognize everybody's fates as "good"--but as God has treated me with justice and more than mercy, I'm inclined to trust where I can't observe.

I was raised as an atheist; under the circumstances I couldn't appreciate the traditional Christian belief that God intended eternal punishment for people like me. (Meanwhile, I kept wishing there was could be a real God somehow, a good God who didn't treat people with such capricious cruelty.) When God began to noticeably intervene in my life--letting me destroy my own false pride, by "ruining" (what I'd been taught to call) "my life" while introducing me to wonderful strange people and experiences--I only half believed what was going on. I'd relinquished a lifetime of certainties about how the world worked and what was possible here; I couldn't find enough confirmation that The Impossible was exactly what I was living through. By anyone's "objective" standards I was a nut and a failure. But I knew that God's opinion of me was what mattered--and while God knew I was a fool, I always had good people around and was slowly getting the gravel out of my eyes.

There were times I forgot What's What and was reduced to "faith" in remembered experiences. And other times when God was taking me out of Egypt with signs & wonders (suitably reduced in scale), transitional periods when I'd recognize God's hands behind the scenes and wonder how I'd ever forgotten. I couldn't, I told myself, expect God to be constantly setting up synchronicities just to remind me he's really there. In some sense I was still imagining that the "real" world was physical, with God needing to rearrange matter in order to change our story-lines. And much of my "evidence" for God was anecdotal, based on events that I knew were meaningful but certainly could never use as proof for anyone else.

Sometime around 1981 I was smoking a joint and reading a Scientific American article on consciousness. Of course I doubted that they could say anything meaningful about it at all--but when I saw how they were missing the point, I had a sudden intense intuition of the reality of it. I'd known for some time that I (what I really am--and what you really are) was eternal; this left me with evidence I couldn't doubt. Whenever since I've wondered if I've been deceiving myself about God's reality--that very self, no matter how inept or confused it may be, proves otherwise. (You, of course, will need to locate your own evidence! Hint: look at the one who's looking.)

When you know that you are eternal, it changes things. What looks to the world like death--doesn't look so final. Knowing that the Spirit behind events is no worse than your very self, that it has consistently proven itself better than your own self... you don't necessarily fear what the world fears. You can, as Walt Whitman put it, "Dismiss whatever insults your own soul."

In this mind, you don't necessarily give up anything. None of that was ever quite yours to keep; the things God brings instead turn out to be better.


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