34 *Then Jesus called the crowd and his disciples to him. “If anyone wants to come with me,” he told them, “he must forget self, carry his cross, and follow me. 35*For whoever wants to save his own life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36Do people gain anything if they win the whole world but lose their life? Of course not! 37There is nothing they can give to regain their life. Mark 8:34-37 GNT
But, my dear hearer, it does not matter much whether you know all about the arts of nature and the wisdom of the world. Be satisfied with what your experience and common sense teach you. It is enough for you to know that in the summer other work must be done than in the winter; that you know how to attend to your farm, stock, home and children. Beyond this think only how you may know Christ. He will teach you how you may know yourself, who you are, and what power lieth in you. Then you will know God and yourself, which the masters of the arts of nature and the wisdom of this world do not learn.
But a solved life is a reduced life.
There are days where I would love the idea of a solved life. To have a place for everyone, and everyone in their place. (same thing for…things) The clean desk, the organized calendar, the perfect family. To have a government that isn’t petty, but actually does it work with the intent of providing peace and safety to all.
It sounds like a nice utopian village, and is utterly, completely impossible.
And as I think about it, I am glad it is.
For knowing that life will be chaotic is a blessing, for it strips away that part of me that wants to play God. There is no illusion in my life that life is under control, much less “solved”. I have to approach life much as Luther indicates, satisfied to know the basics of survival – and what must be done now, With that, I find more time to seek after Jesus, to be drawn by the Holy Spirit into His presence. Or to see that presence revealed, for Jesus was there all the time.
This resonates with the gospel of Mark, where Mark is urging us to set aside everything–to lose it–in order to see Jesus save it. For we can’t save ourselves, or even manage our lives once they are saved.
Being not in charge means living in a way that seems out-of-control – even chaotic. But that is okay, when we realize the promise of the one who does understand, and shapes all that chaos into blessings beyond our expectation. Blessings that are full of peace and joy, for they are given by the Lord who is present. I might hate the chaos, but in Christ, we will thrive on it. That isn’t a paradox, it is a promise of God Almighty and All-knowing. Understanding this doesn’t make the chaos any less hectic or disturbing, but it can build a joyous expectation as we wait to see how God will make it all happen.
Heavenly Father, when life seems chaotic and out of control, remind us of Your care, and Your will for us! Amen!
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 13–14.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 72.
Devotional/Discussion thought of the day:
There is a game that we play, that came to an abrupt end last Friday.
I call the game, “Utopia”, and I think we get addicted to playing it.
The premise of the game is to see how well we can pretend the world is “perfect”, that there are no problems, or that the solution to them is as easy as whose name we check on a ballot. Or what we will unwrap on Christmas day will finally put us in the winner’s circle of the game. Or perhaps getting that new job, or being able to retire. Or if we find the right partner, (and if they aren’t perfect, we toss them away and try again). Even our schools prefer to have perfect images, and sometimes ignore the kids with serious issues, until it is too late. In churches as well, we often fail to see our own heresies, our own legalism, our own devotion to our culture more than our devotion to our community. Our empty sanctuaries are too hard too fill – with 100 times more people in our community than when they were built, so let’s close their doors and turn them into a starbucks, or a museum
We like perfection, and we avoid those things that would call us to admit there is work to be done. If things are perfect, if we are not in control, anxiety looms, more powerful and stronger than our wills. Often, in defense, we project the problem a distance away, its someone else’s fault, their problems, their issues, their weaknesses are now affecting us! If only they would pull their weight, if they only followed our wisdom,
There is a very subtle evil, a very determined narcissistic nature, a very powerful form of self-idolatry, that is alive and well as we play such a game as Utopia.
And one of the reasons we all take tragedies, whether natural ones like a hurricane or earthquake, or man-made ones like 9/11, Columbine, Paducah, Va Tech, or now NewTown, so hard, is that they stop our games. We can’t pretend our world is perfect anymore, we can’t play the game… it just seems…vain.
Which the game always was… vain.
We are free of the vanity now… but will we embrace it again?
There is an option to Utopia – it is reality.
A reality not of blind optimism, or some kind of hopeless fatalism. There is God’s reality. There is His work in our lives, there are His promises.
The risen Christ, Christ in glory, has divested himself of the things of this earth, so that we men, his brothers, should ask ourselves what things we need to get rid of.
Part of me wants to rebel against this – to dismiss it as some sort of fanaticism, some form of Amish like pietism.
But when trauma robs us of everything on earth – even the lives of those we love, we have something. We have Christ. We have His glory, we have His love and the promises that all is not lost, all is not vain and empty.
For what becomes the center of our life is a relationship, with our Mentor, our Guide, our Master, our Protector, our Healer, our Advocate, our Righteousness, our Lord, our Comforter, our Brother, our Father….our God,
The One who loves us.
The One we don’t see when we play Utopia…
So live in the reality of His love, look to Him every day, ask Him to cleanse you of your idols, ask Him to strengthen your trust, your love, ask Him to remind you that you dwell in His peace…..
Ask Him, Lord have mercy!
And rejoice, in knowing He has promised, and His is doing this very thing – even now.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1990-1991). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition. 526