Sermon For March 1, 2015 ~ Second Sunday Of Lent

Mark 8:31-38 (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=292210356 )

“Getting Lost”

Franklin Circle Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Cleveland, Ohio ~ http://www.FranklinCircleChristianChurch.org

Rev. Allen V. Harris, Pastor & Preacher ~ E-Mail: PastorAllen@FranklinCircleChurch.org

Twitter: @FranklinCircle ~ Pastor’s Blog: https://nearwestclevepastor.wordpress.com

KidsClubhouseHow many of us have or had older siblings?  Well I certainly cannot speak for everyone, but I certainly had an older brother who occasionally slipped into the stereotypical role model for an older sibling… embarrassed by his younger brother…  resented having to look after me when mom needed to run to the store… punched me in the arm when mom wasn’t looking… and definitely – DEFINITELY – whenever I stuck my nose into his room or his secret clubhouse or his business, told me to “Get lost!”

Those two little words were so devastating for a little brother, or for any kid for that matter.  “Get lost!”  It only reminded me that I wasn’t welcome in the “in” crowd, that I wasn’t old enough, smart enough, good enough for them.  “Get lost!” eats away at our desire to belong, our hunger to be part of the action, our hope that we are not a nobody but a somebody.  And we rarely lose those hungers as we grow up, although they tend to get pushed inside, become more subtle or even sophisticated.  But we all want to belong, to be welcome, to be integral to what is hip, exciting, where the energy is.

Vasiliy Polenov. "What People Think about Me". From the series "The Life of Christ". 1900. Oil on canvas

Vasiliy Polenov. “What People Think about Me”. From the series “The Life of Christ”. 1900. Oil on canvas

I imagine the scene described in Mark chapter 8 to have evoked some similar feelings.  The disciples have just come back from some incredible moments of witnessing Jesus miracles – the feeding of five thousand people and the healing of the blind man at Bethesda – as well as some tense but invigorating verbal sparring between Jesus and the Pharisees.  Then Jesus turns to his own and asks them who people think he is.  And Peter, almost as if he knows the secret location, word, AND handshake to the boys only clubhouse answers the question spot on: You are the Messiah!” and assumes he is welcome, part of the “in crowd,” a card carrying member of Jesus’ good ‘ol boy club.  And Jesus seems to reaffirm this when he says, “Shhh!  Don’t tell anyone the codes!”

But then Jesus continues to talk, and tells his disciples a bit more about what the rules for this particular organization are, and what will be required of them.  And he gets all wacky on them, speaking of suffering and rejection… and even, God forbid, death!  He seems to imply that the leader of the pack is going to be the brunt of the other bullies’ revenge, which doesn’t make sense at all!  Peter, second in command in this clubhouse now, pulls Jesus aside to let him know that he is definitely not down with this kind of talk.  Jesus is on top of his game!  The people are pouring to his events!  This is when you use your power quickly to strike out first at the other gang!  But here’s he’s talking like giving in!

And then, it’s almost as if Jesus turns on Peter and says, in no uncertain terms, “Get lost!”  First it is in terms of “Get behind me, Satan!” – pretty strong language!  But then it is in terms that are unequivocal: “Get Lost!”  “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”  Yeah… “Get Lost!”   There is no doubt in this band of brothers… we play by a different set of rules.

I use the images of siblings and kids’ clubhouses not to diminish nor demean what Jesus is saying.  Rather, for me at least, it plunges me deep into those primal childhood feelings of not being part of the “in crowd, for such feelings of being welcome or being excluded are developed early on.  One of the most vivid memories I have of my early teenage years was about just this.  One day at Mountain View Middle School, in the 7th or 8th grade, I recall walking into the library and the group of friends with whom I hung out were gathered in a circle on the other side from where the door was.  I had barely crossed the threshold when I heard my name being said, then the entire group of persons I assumed were my very best friends burst out in uncontrollable laughter.  I was overwhelmed instantaneously with horror and embarrassment and feelings of betrayal, spun around and ran out the door crying.

Of course, I’ve evaluated that moment hundreds of times since childhood, and realize objectively that it is highly likely nothing that went through my teenage mind was reality, but the feelings I had were extraordinarily real.  I can only imagine how Jesus, turning on Peter, didn’t also have incredible impact on him.  But what is different is that Jesus goes on to say that these feelings of being the excluded one… are exactly the feelings he was calling us to make our life’s goal!  That following him was not going to be a joyride in the back of dad’s ’57 Chevy, but a slow long trudge in the mud to a beating behind the stadium bleachers.  At least that’s how it feels upon first hearing.

So where is the good news in all this.  Well as I meditated, read, and prayed on this I came up with a different way of hearing “Get lost!”  And that is the invitation to get lost in something that captivates your imagination, something that fills you with wonder and delight, something that has real meaning and value in the world.  You NdebeleVillageKidsPlayingknow, this is the daydreaming you’d do during class as you looked out the schoolroom window staring at the sunlight drifting through the panes and the little specks of dust dancing in the beams.  Or the “getting lost” that happens when children are fully at play, lost in their own little worlds.

What we need to hear Jesus say in this is certainly strong and abrupt, but the “get lost” to which he is inviting us is the letting go of the power plays and the selfish ambitions that do eventually lead to violence, the violence he knew that he was going to experience.  But his invitation is not just to let go of those deep hungers for being a part of the “in crowd” but to also, “get lost” in helping the vast majority of people in our world, sadly, who are the “have nots,” the least, the lost, the lonely, the left out.

What happened at that moment in the library, while devastating for my childhood ego, was absolutely critical for the formation of my moral and ethical value system.  For in that moment I realized that my hunger to be important, my cravings to be accepted by the smartest and the prettiest and the well-to-do was a questionable if not dangerous path to trod.  From that point onward I began to look to others to become my friends, and quite often I would be found at the table in the lunchroom with the geeks, the nerds, the dweebs, and the shy kids.  To be honest, their conversations were far more interesting and real anyway!  At dances I began to look for the so-called “wall flowers” to invite them to dance.  I found the excitement and smiles of these gals to be far far more rewarding for my deep inner soul than the disinterested gaze and zombie dance moves of so many who I had previously hungered to call my friends, the jet-set, the upper crust kids.

So, my beloved, Jesus understands our deepest desires to be let into the clubhouse, to be part of the inner sanctum of power and privilege.  But he tells us to “get lost,” not to make us feel bad, but to reorient our priorities.  A life of faith is about getting lost… in the needs and hopes and possibilities and friendships of those on the margins, those on the bottom rung of the ladder, those for whom clubhouses are only a dream.  For by getting lost in the wonder of loving and serving and befriending these, the least of these, we will have been found by the one true friend who will welcome us into the only club that really matters: God’s Beloved Community  Amen.

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