Let’s do it…let’s fall in love.
The Gospel of Mark ends abruptly. Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome “…fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” These are the last words of the Gospel…fear and silence? Jesus died somewhere around the year 30 AD. The Gospel of Mark was written 35 or 40 years later. Even the earliest listeners of the Gospel of Mark knew what came next, that Jesus overcame death. The ending of this Gospel is an invitation. Do we live in fear and silence over the implausibility of Jesus returning to live among us? Do we live in fear and silence over the incredibility of Jesus’ unfailing insistence on love, even after crucifixion, the height of injustice and cruelty? His return is implausible. His love is incredible. Do we live in fear and silence or, do we fall in love with Jesus?
Well, what would this love mean for our lives? I heard the Rev. Dr. Sam Wells speak, recently, about the shame he experienced during this past year. Sam is the Vicar of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, one of the most famous churches in London. In fact, he speaks around the world about the ministries of St. Martin, most notably their ministries to the homeless. Yet, COVID hit all of us, renowned or not. Sam had to let go 84 people this year, 1/3 of his staff. With all the accolades he has received over the years, he felt ashamed for his failure to eclipse the virus. We might give little attention to his emotions. After all, COVID was hardly his fault. Yet, let’s think again. Don’t we get it? Haven’t we experienced this shame, perhaps partly due to our actions, but ignited by circumstances beyond our control? A cancer diagnosis, alcoholism, divorce, job loss….we feel weak in a world that values achievement, in a culture that prioritizes control. It eats at our self-esteem; it hurts in our core.
Where do we find the power to overcome the debilitating experience of weakness? Henry Timms, Founder of Giving Tuesday, the global generosity movement that has raised billions of dollars in charitable giving over the past 10 years, speaks widely about new power vs. old power. Old power values confidentiality. New power values transparency. Old power values competition. New power values collaboration. Giving Tuesday is all about collaboration. Raising the billions in charitable giving happens through partnerships around the world. New power: transparency and collaboration…isn’t this the message Jesus has been teaching us all along? Real power doesn’t lie in control. Real power lies in relationship with God and with one another. Real power lies in community. Together, we share our life stories with one another. Through these stories, we see the realities of the human condition. Accepting Jesus’ invitation to love: we walk with one another offering understanding, support and a way forward. When we share our stories with one another, the Holy Spirit creates a new story. Weakness need not be a place of shame. Weakness voiced is where transformation begins.
What did the Rev. Dr. Sam Wells do with the shame he felt over having to let go 1/3 of his staff? He reflected with others on the life of Jesus. I share Sam’s words. “Jesus spent one week of his life in Jerusalem, the last week, working for people doing what they were not able to do for themselves. Jesus spent three years in Galilee working with people, building a social movement, empowering the disciples, transforming the aspirations of those he met. Jesus spent thirty years in Nazareth being with people, sharing their joys and sorrows, offering them attention, understanding, time and respect, delighting in their way of life, shouldering with them the yoke of their suffering.” One week working for people, three years working with people, thirty years being with people. This is what Jesus taught us: to share our lives with one another, the good and the bad, the easy and the hard. Contrary to popular belief, real power does not derive from personal agency, from control over our individual life. Real power comes through one another, sharing the love known through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
From John, chapter 7, verse 38: “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.” In Jesus’ love, we are alive, living how we are meant to live, sharing with another this grand, challenging, heart-rending, heart fulfilling experience of life. We are only complete through one another. We only live fully when we are sharing Christ’s love – comforting, enlightening, enriching. What does loving Jesus mean for our lives? Transformation into a fullness known only through his love, transformation for us and for this world. We are meant to be so much more than individuals living in the context of community. We are meant to be community.
This past year has been difficult on so many levels and, let’s be realistic, the road ahead is unclear. But, we do know this: God will make something new out of the brokenness from the pandemic. Let’s leave our pre-pandemic innocence behind and allow the lesson, so firmly impressed upon our hearts through this pandemic year, allow this lesson to guide our future: loving relationships are vital to our sustenance – family, friends, communities, nations. The Gospel of Mark ends with fear and silence. The pages following are blank; the words to fill those pages are ours. We can live our lives in the light of Christ’s love. We can stand at the foot of the empty cross and know that love conquers the hurt of this world. Jesus overpowered the darkness for us. What kind of love is this? Unbounded; Immeasurable. Endurance, peace, fullness, and joy are found in the embrace of this sacrificial love – a life given up for love; a return desiring love for us all. Let’s do it…let’s fall in love.