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Last week we reflected on our need to be encouraged, and always to be brave enough to begin again – because if we tune-in properly, eradicate the static, there is always GOOD NEWS to hear.
Well, let us focus on some of the words with which this SUNDAYS OLD TESTAMENT READING [ISAIAH 50: 5 – 9a] commence, together with verses from TODAYS PSALM .
Isaiah proclaims that “I was not rebellious, I turned not backward.” Then, the Psalm proclaims: “I was brought low, and (the Lord) saved me … he kept my feet from stumbling … I walk .. in the land of the living.”
However, we should bear in mind some other words that come from this SUNDAYS GOSPEL verses [MARK 8: 27 – 35]. The words of Jesus were addressed to Peter (who had a very short while beforehand made his famous profession of faith). “Get behind me Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men.” A few verses further on, the Lord adds remarks for everyone, not only Peter. He says “whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospels will save it.”
We need to remember that very often what at first might seem to be bad news is, in fact, GOOD! Also, know with certainty that our profession of faith may be deeply sincere, but it needs to be matched to REALISM. Life is real. God is real. I am real! Peter was attempting to go backwards and was being rebellious. He believed but expected his faith to protect him from the realities of his life and living. Jesus anticipation of his suffering and death was bad news for Peter. He was attempting to “save his life” – not “lose it.” However, as we know, the Passion of the Lord was an essential element of the GOOD NEWS. Faith cannot be separated from the Good News. IT IS A PACKAGE DEAL!
Too often we overlook the fact that when facing and living through the tough, difficult and hurtful parts of our lives “the Lord protects (and keeps) my feet from stumbling.” Faith IN the Good News does not (neither is it intended to) eradicate the difficult challenges of life. Rather, it provides me with the power and ability to deal with them. There is a real temptation for us to take a detour around hurts, disappointments and sufferings. These endeavours never work. The only way is to tackle and solve them. Realism of faith and discipleship enables me to do this. I repeat what I have said so often before – the gate to the garden of resurrection is only to be found in the garden of Gethsemane. Somehow or other there are the times in our living when we have to lose our life in order to save it.
The Psalm makes a telling point when it speaks of walking “in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living.” Detours take us out of “the presence of the Lord”, and involve us in emigrations from “the land of the living.”
I myself am often horrified at the prospects of my life if I had attempted detours and emigration.
However, it is important for us to accept the fact that Christian disciples are not expected to be masochists – and neither should we be. Yet, when the challenges come, it is a sterile response to “rebuke him”, and say “Lord this should not be.”(the latter reaction is recorded in other Gospel versions.)
What always needs to be remembered are other words from our Old Testament extract – “for the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been confounded.”
While this Sundays NEW TESTAMENT SCRIPTURE [JAMES 2: 14 – 18] is speaking in an entirely different context, there is an analogy. While James focuses on our responses to the needs of others, we could profitably transfer this to ourselves. Faith on its own is insufficient. It has to be translated into action. The action which concerns us this week is the action of staying on the road.