As we continue our journey through Lent, Christians throughout Columbia will be sharing their own beautifully written ‘letters from the heart.’ Each is accompanied by corresponding relevant scripture verse(s), and linked to sources for further study. If you would like to join us on Columbia’s Lenten journey, please send us your ‘letter from the heart’ by email. Especially meaningful submissions will be printed. Let us continue our Lenten journey of repentance, meditation, and anticipation day-by-day, to its glorious culmination on Easter morning.
Today’s scripture is from the Gospel of Mark 9:30-41.
The disciples were close to Jesus. They loved, follow and learned from Him. Yet each still sought to channel Christ’s love for his own personal gain. Jesus rebuked them and called them to serve the needy and those who could not benefit them personally. They immediately tried to divert His comments by pointing out that there was a magician nearby healing in Jesus’ name and asking how to get rid of the problem. They implied that the man must be stopped because he was not really one of them, the elect, the called, the chosen. He was different. He wasn’t one of THE group.
It is not an accident that Mark recorded the two stories sequentially. Both show the self-pride, the hubris, and the exclusiveness of the group. They were “the chosen,” not this man doing things out on his own. He didn’t have a right to act in Jesus’ name and heal. He wasn’t one of them. Hear the vaunted self-image and pride of the group?
The man did not meet their idea of what was acceptable. Yet, Jesus did not deny the man the right to heal in His name. Differentness was not a reason to deny service in the kingdom. If he was caring for the needy, healing and honoring Jesus by doing so, Jesus claimed his service and said the man was not to be bothered.
Madeleine L’Engle once offered, “The most painful operation in the world is having our eyes opened.” Perhaps it is even harder to open one’s heart and to acknowledge the good done by those with whom we disagree, those who are different, those who do not have the same attitude, appearance, training, or personality traits. Yet, Jesus decreed that differentness was not a reason for excluding serving needs of others in His name.
Lent is a time for preparation. It a time for moving into sharing the death of Christ, before the glorious resurrection. It is a time of opening to change in ourselves as well as the whole world. We know that the church is not a club; it is a community always in the process of conversion, one becoming aware of the living presence of God among us that compels change in us.
Flannery O’Connor wrote, “…I don’t know if anyone can be converted without seeing themselves in a kind of blasting annihilating light, a blast that will last a lifetime.” To seek a life in Christ and the church is to open ourselves to that dual crossbar, opening ourselves before heaven and opening ourselves o those around us. O’Connor continues, “You will have found Christ when you are concerned with other people’s suffering and not your own.” Jesus offered the disciples this challenge. It is one Lent offers us today.
Chaplain, Boy Scouts of America
Columbia, South Carolina
If you enjoyed this Lenten meditation, you can find more at Sharon's Columbia Biblical Studies Examiner homepage.