This Lent I’ve gone back to basics and not only read Mark’s gospel, but have posted a daily Bible study here on the blog.
In reading the gospels again what strikes me is the radical, bare bones, rock solid, bottom line approach of Jesus. He is not cluttered up with lots of extraneous stuff. He does not get sidelined into politics. He does not get sidelined into petty religious squabbles. He does not get diverted into petty personal feuds. He does not get caught up in philosophical debates or ideological disputes.
He comes to teach the truth, overcome evil, heal the sick and forgive sins. He comes to reconcile the world to God. Everything else falls into place behind that simple mission.
What a contrast then to the situation in the Church. Reading the gospel again has reminded me how caught up we are with everything else but Jesus. The progressive Christians are all caught up in promoting homosexuality while the conservative Christians are just as caught up in the opposition to same sex marriage. The conservative Christians in America are squabbling over who is more conservative in political and economic theories than the other guy. The traditionalists are all worked up over this liturgy or that liturgy and which one is more beautiful and worthy. The pro life people are tirelessly campaigning against abortion while the environmentalist Christians are preaching about the stewardship of the earth’s resources. Here are Christians getting worked up over whether a movie about a Bible character is Biblical enough while others are saying it doesn’t matter.
It seems to me that we’ve ended up with Christianity without Christ. He stands, as always, alone and bemused at our religious wrangling, our debates over dogma and our political posturing. He stands with the poor, the sick, the hungry and the homeless because they’re the only ones who are really interested in him. He stands outside all our rabidly religious goody goody efforts and regards us with a strange sadness.
We’re so busy trying to make the world a better place and change things that we’ve forgotten to make ourselves any better. We’re so busy trying to save the world that we forgot that was his job. We’re so busy trying to change the church into our image that we forget that we’re supposed to be changed into his image. We’re so busy trying to push our particular ideas and ideologies that we forget he is above and beyond all our shallow thoughts and imaginations.
We forget that he has come to offer us nothing but a share in his work of redemption through our own carrying of a cross, and when we turn away from this grim news he rebukes us as he rebuked Peter, “Get away from me Satan. You are not thinking as God thinks, but as man thinks.”
We need to rediscover the power, the simplicity and the mysterious beauty of Christ the Lord. He comes like a stranger in the night. That detail in the story of his walking on the water echoes the strange beauty and remarkable mystery of Christ. As he walked on the water Mark’s gospel says he “meant to pass by them.” So it is with us. He is on a mission we cannot fully understand. He goes through this world like a hot knife through butter–with utter simplicity and determination he steps into our world and out again inviting us to follow, but knowing that few will even begin to understand.
If we were to put him first again and truly return to Christ all the other things would fall into line. All the efforts we make, all the causes we feel passionate about, all the wrongs we wish to right and the good things we wish to do come second to the One. If we were to seek first the King and his Kingdom everything else would be added to us.