Today's lectionary reading: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Psalm 22:23-31; Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38; Mark 9:2-9
Passage selected for reflection: Mark 8:31-38, emphasis on vs 34-35 (NIV)
31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
It had been a long day of moving. In an effort to save money we had employed our unemployed daughter to pack our things. Meaning, for weeks we had lived with half-empty boxes, rolls of packing tape and mountains of brown paper. I had reached a breaking point when a small disagreement with my husband about how much of the shared closet each of us was “entitled” to escalated into a shouting match followed by sullen silence.
I was not going to apologize.
How much time do I spend saving my life? Not necessarily my physical life – though I try to drink less alcohol and limit my sugar intake – but saving my professional life? Defending my ego? Protesting my integrity and honor? That’s where Jesus directs me in this teaching. In Mark 8:34-35, we are told that we cannot save our lives by preserving them and we cannot lose them by giving them up.
Intellectually we know this is true. No gain will be made without pain; new beginnings mean that something ended. Yes, yes. We know that with our head, but it is not our head that needs to know this truth; it’s our heart. Our gut. That cellular something that moves us from self-protection and emotional guardedness. How can we choose the way of humility in a world that screams self-recognition? How will people know we are special if we don’t relentlessly trumpet our credentials? How will people know we are right if we are willing to let things go?
Jesus knew that the act of clinging to our life; life in all its forms –status, honor, ego—would have a chilling effect on our ability to respond to him and to our neighbor. Jesus began this passage in Mark 8:31 by explaining that the respected authorities, the religious institutions, (i.e., the legitimate voices of respect and power) would all reject him...and Jesus was okay with that. He would not change his message nor make himself more palatable to the prevailing religious norms in any way simply to save his life. In addition to personal integrity, Jesus was not going to fight back in self-defense and self-protection.
Jesus would go to the cross. I was unwilling to yield a couple of closet drawers.
What parts of your life are you busy protecting? Where are you being called to surrender your ego or lower your pride so that you can live less guarded? Ask Jesus to show you and give you the courage to follow him.
Ever creating Spirit of God, we ask you to review our lives and reveal our pockets of resistance. Show us where we defend and protect and refuse your path of vulnerability and love. Give us the courage to live the way of the cross. Amen.
About the Author
Rev. Dr. Laura Truax is senior pastor of LaSalle Street Church in Chicago and serves on the Seminary Advisory Board at the University of Dubuque. Dr. Truax holds a Master of Divinity degree from Loyola University and a Doctor of Ministry degree from the joint program of North Park Seminary and Fuller Theological Seminary. She is the author of Undone: When coming apart puts you back together (2013) and Love Let Go: Radical Generosity for the real world (2017) and is part of the Red Letter Christians. @revtruax // facebook.com/laura.truax1