You know how I was telling you a couple of weeks ago that I didn’t like the text on Jesus doing miracles of healing and bringing someone back to life. I didn’t, and don’t, understand exactly how prayer and miracles work so it is hard for me to preach and teach about. Well, this is another one of those gospel texts I don’t like very much.[audio http://www.buzzsprout.com/33052/351245-loss-of-what.mp3]
Not because I don’t understand it but rather I understand it with a clarity I don’t always find in reading the Bible. I think it is pretty crystal clear what Jesus is telling us to do. I just don’t want to do what Jesus is telling us to do. Any other reaction to this text is pretty much a rationalization, which Jesus pretty much tells us we’ll do as well. I REALLY don’t like that.
What it comes down to is that Jesus wants each and every one of us. All of us. All the time. There are 168 hours in a week and Jesus isn’t asking for a couple of hours on Sunday. Jesus wants the other 166 hours as well. Not that we don’t go to work or school or do any of the million and three things we do every week but that the REASON we do those million and three things be all about Jesus.
We live in a time when we often hear people say their kids are the most important thing in their lives. If you watch the Facebook feeds of grandparents, me included, you would think that slipped a generation and that grandchildren are the most important things in their lives. We live in a time when we often see people acting as if their home, their car or their latest technology was the most important thing in their lives.
The way Mark tells us, Jesus is calling us to take a hard, cold, dispassionate look at our life’s priorities. This text calls us to take a hard, cold, dispassionate look at what is the most important thing in our lives.
This does not mean asking what we THINK is the priority in our lives. We’re too prone to deceive ourselves answering that question. That makes me think of the Brief Order of Confession and Forgiveness that comes from 1 John 1 v8. That part that says “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” I don’t know anyone here who would say they have no sin but in what other ways do we deceive ourselves and in that deception we block the truth of God in Christ in us?
That is the primary danger of this deception. If I, as a pastor, ask almost anyone who knows me as a pastor, “What is the most important thing in your life?” how many people will answer, “God”? Pretty much anyone. It’s kind of like the children’s sermon joke I reference on occasion. The pastor asks the children who or what they think he’s talking about. One small person responds, “I think he’s talking about a squirrel but I’m going to say Jesus because he’s always talking about Jesus.”
But if you were walking down NW 1st Street here and someone with a clipboard and a nametag who looked like they were taking a survey came up to you and asked, “What is the most important thing in your life?” what would your response be? Would you respond, “I think squirrel but I’m going to say Jesus?”
Today is Transfiguration Sunday or the Sunday where we recognize the transfiguration of Jesus. It is the point in the story of Jesus where he is publicly outed as the Messiah, the Savior, the one who is come to save all of us. WE all know that Jesus is the One, the one who came to save us. And Mark’s readers did too but those who were with Jesus didn’t know who he really was just yet. They may have had an idea but they didn’t understand the full meaning of who the Son of God really was. Now they see Jesus transfigured before them as they watch. They see the power of God changing the public understanding of Jesus right before their very eyes.
Jesus is asking us for a similar transformation in us. Not transformation in thinking about doing nice things on occasion instead of watching TV or playing a video game but the kind of total transformation that he underwent. A transformation that changes us fundamentally in ways that have us answering the question, “What is the most important thing in our life?” in a way that is unabashedly and crystal clear that God is the most important thing in my life.
If we’re honest about it and get right down to the nitty gritty, nuts and bolts of our real lives, that would be a change for many people and it’s no secret that most people don’t care much for change. It’s a little cliché to say that but it’s cliché because it’s true. Most of us don’t like change very much and really, change for the sake of change isn’t very efficient or useful. This isn’t change for the sake of change, this is the kind of change for every follower of Christ that is change for the sake of him. Total. Fundamental. Complete. Transformation of our lives to make God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit the reason behind every thing we do in our every day.
The struggle we run into most days is that we don’t get our thinking in the right order. When we ask ourselves, “Why am I going to work, today?” we don’t have to see work as the way we make money but instead we don’t have to think about our answer at all and we respond automatically, “I am a follower of Christ.” When we ask ourselves, “Why am I going to school today?” we don’t have to see school as being about getting an education to make more money but instead we don’t have to think about our answer at all and respond automatically, “I am a follower of Christ.” When we ask ourselves, “Why am I going to church today?” we don’t see church as a habit but instead we don’t have to think about our answer at all and respond automatically, “I am a follower of Christ?”
The truth is that when God is our priority and focus, other things tend to take their proper place in our perspective. It is not the case that God will bless us if we do the right things. That gets it backwards and makes God that Santa Clause kind of God we talked about a couple of weeks ago. We don’t receive God’s blessings as a reward for doing good things but it IS the case that God has so ordered the world that if we are focused on God as the most important thing in our life that everything takes it’s proper place in the way we experience the world.
The hard part is making the change. It is difficult to let go of all the things that weigh us down and call our focus away from God. I wish there was a simple checklist formula that I could hand out and say, “Do all these things and you’ll be transformed” but faith doesn’t work off of a checklist. The secret is simply that we have to get out of our own way and let the Holy Spirit do it’s work. Let the Holy Spirit do her work in us and take away our focus on work, school and a million and three other distractions to let God in Christ be the one, holy priority in our lives.