Whose Vision Do We Carry?
By Rev Steven R Mitchell
Mountain View United, Aurora, CO 3/1/2013
Based on Mark 8:31-38
This past Wednesday I drove a father and his two boys of second and third grade age from the airport to a destination in the Highlands in Denver. Because of the snow, it was a very slow drive of over two hours on I-70. As we were nearing our destination the dad commended his boys on being very patient travelers. Then he made the comment, “After all boys, it’s the journey not the destination that counts.” I agreed with the father, except I suspect at their age it is totally the destination that is important and not the journey.
As we enter into the second week of Lent, it is the journey that we should be thinking about and asking questions that focus on our Lenten journey. The gospel of Mark is a story about Jesus’ journey, a journey that leads Jesus to the cross. One of our primary questions that we should be asking ourselves during this season of Lent is, “what does it mean to be a faithful disciple of Jesus?” As Jesus began his three year journey toward the cross, he went out into the dessert for 40 days so he could do some personal reflection. I suspect one of the major questions that Jesus was asking himself was, “What does it mean to be Jesus?” If Jesus was asking himself this question, then I suggest that it is equally important for us to ask the question of ourselves, “What does it mean to be me?” For it is within the answer to that question we are then ready to answer with integrity the question of “what does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus.” For it is in understanding clearly “what it means to be me”, that we are then able to determine, “whose vision we carry”, both as a Christian and as a congregation.
Think back (for those of us who are old enough) to when you were in high school. One of the primary activities that each of us would have been involved in would be asking ourselves the question of “what does it mean to be me.” To be me, “do I need to follow the crowd in order to be popular?” “Do I conform to listen to the music the group says is cool, or do I dare to listen to what I find more gratifying?” “Do I wear my hair in a Justin Bieber cut or wear a Mohawk because I like the statement of independence that it suggests?” “Does my character allow me to cheat on an exam when given the opportunity, or is it ‘the me’ who decides it is better to study hard in order to pass the exam?”
When we are raising a family, we often ask what does it mean to be a parent. Do I still live for my own personal enjoyment or do I put my children before myself? Singer/actor Bet Middler over the past thirty-five years has made a number of family movies with Disney, but prior to that she was well known to be a rather risqué performer. When asked why the change, she said, “I realized as a mother, I didn’t want my daughter to know me as that kind of person.”
The question, “what does it mean to be me”, goes deeper than our character, it asks about who we are at the “soul level” of our being. I want to re-read for you this passage of scripture, but with my feeble attempt to update the language in hopes of making it relate more to how we understand things. “Then Jesus began to share with them that the work to achieve ‘God’s dream’ must undergo great obstacles and setbacks, and be rejected by the philosophy of consumerism, by Wall Street, and by the politicians killing legislation for social justice and environmental responsibilities in lieu of self-interests, but truth will rise again. Jesus said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to warn Jesus about the dangers of being so publically vocal on social justice issues. But turning and looking at his disciples, Jesus rebuked Peter and said, “Get out of my site, lover of the world’s ideals! For you are setting your heart not on God’s dream, but on human desires and standards.” Jesus spoke to the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny their comforts and follow what they know to be right. For those who want to live by human desires and standards will lose themselves, and those who chose God’s dream of justice, will find true life!”
You see, the troubles in the world are not sustained by the world, but rather by what is going on in our own hearts. The troubles and the solutions exist in the, “what does it mean to be me” questions. What is it that really is most important in my life? Is it more important to bend to the will of my job that promises more money and stability in order to provide a standard of living that others say is important, which generally means I have to sacrifice my family in order to comply. Is it more important to me to satisfy my desires at the expense of those that are most closely tied to me? Am I comfortably content in my abundance, while others that I know struggle for daily survival – is that what it means to be me?
Jesus wasn’t saying that Peter is Satan. Jesus was telling Peter that his heart was still thinking at the level of human desire. The problem in the world isn’t so much others, as it is the “me.” God has a dream for the world, a dream that has true equality for all humanity, a dream where every person has “enough” for each day, without being judged as to “why’ can’t they achieve what “I’ve” got. God has a dream that justice and mercy is the standard that each of us thinks of first. The poor, the needy, the helpless will always be with us, says Jesus. That is something that we will never be free from, but it is in how we address those who are marginalized that determines who we are. It is in how we strive to include those on the fringe of society that Jesus says he will know who we are and whether we acted as if we know Jesus.
As we come this morning to the table of Christ, we can read through the gospel stories “who Jesus” finally defined himself as. I hope that during this Lenten season, you take the time to create some “wilderness time” in your life, so you too can ask yourself “what it means to be me”, so you can determine “whose vision you carry.” Amen
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