Being and Becoming

Ezekiel 17: 22-24; 2Cor 5: 6-10; Mark 4: 26-34

Israel finds itself in a situation in this first reading, somewhere lost between what they have known and what’s been most familiar and their call to be the “majestic cedar” that Ezekiel makes them aware of in this text. Cedar was a hot commodity. They were considered the most majestic of trees, durable and flexible; they were great for building. So to be called to be the “majestic cedar”, Israel is being called to greatness, and in turn, you and me as well.

There’s one problem…Israel only knows what it knows, and it’s a history that carries much weight with it. Just read backwards from this passage and you’ll hear the plight of the people Israel. They’ve questioned God’s faithfulness in the past. They’ve experienced war and violence. They’ve experienced exile for years and years, and so the natural response of Israel, despite the call of many prophetic voices, is to question and doubt and get lost in the known of the past; they’re holding on tightly uneasy with taking such a risk. Once again, as we often do in our own lives when we live only with what we know, we hesitate and question this call to something like the “majestic cedar”; how can this be, after all we’ve been through and yet, again, God calls Israel to the unknown, to their deeper call.

Paul reminds the people of Corinth of the same in their lives and their relation to the community, the “body”. Like us, they too are also caught somewhere between the tension of the past and their future life. Paul tells in the words that we are most familiar, “we walk by faith, not by sight.” We have a tendency as Israel and the people of Corinth, to just keep doing what we’re doing, even if it no longer brings life and we’re aware of what it does to them and others in their community. But it’s what they know, it’s what they see, despite being called to walk by faith, to be willing to step into the unknown of where God is leading. For Paul, the eye is always on the prize, even if it is not seen and is unknown. Paul has become the majestic cedar that he has been called to and now he leads others on that same journey. He too had to learn as the prophets try to lead, to let go of the known and expected path in order to create space for the true call.

The disciples are moving towards their call in being the majestic cedar as followers of Christ, but of course, need to be taught to trust the internal voice calling them to be who they are. The end of the passage we hear today Mark tells us that Jesus explains everything to them in private. We too must ask whether we settle for the outside interpretation or strive for an insider understanding of what it means to be the majestic cedar in our lives. At this point the disciples are more concerned with what the outside authorities are saying and it makes them nervous and anxious. Maybe most importantly is the first parable Jesus teaches of the man who goes off and plants seeds. Once seeds are planted, even in our own gardens, it’s out of our control. All we can do is wait and trust that something will take shape. We can’t rush it. We can’t pull the plants out of the ground. All we can do is continue to water, nurture, and fertilize; the rest is in God’s hands to sprout the cedar tree within us. Like the mustard seed, it becomes the largest of plants with large branches and a place of refuge for the birds of the sky to dwell in its shade.

Doesn’t it sound great, in becoming the majestic cedar like people Israel? Yet, like them, we too can easily trust only the tried and true of our own lives. Our future is too often predicated on the past and becomes a self-fulfilled prophecy in our own lives that somehow it just can’t be that God is calling me to greatness as God was for Israel. Yet, little by little, and it’s always baby steps with us, we begin to let go of what was, the tried and true, all of our predictions, our lens of the past, our hesitations, the external interpretations of our lives, and all the rest that holds us back and yet we believed so hard over our lives…but now it’s just not true and is no longer life-giving. We are the majestic cedar and God calls us to be it, not simply for all eternity, but at this very moment and on this very day.

Becoming Love Through the Cross

The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ According to John

You need only turn on the news for a few minutes and see how easy it is to become what we hate. There’s so much violence, judgment, hatred, which signifies just how much hurt and suffering exists. We become what we hate when we don’t have the ability to self-reflect,a prophetic eye, to see what it is that needs to die within ourselves. All this, so often as we have seen, in the name of God, in the name of religion, which has gone on since the beginning of time. How easy it is to become what it is we hate.

How quickly, also, the crowd turns on Jesus. Remember back to the entrance on Palm Sunday as they waved palms, welcoming him into the eternal city. Hosanna in the Highest! And yet today, crucify him! When the tension begins to build between Jesus and those John refers to as “the Jews”, which isn’t what we mean it today, but rather the leaders of the faith, the Pharisees and others, the crowd quickly begins to change its tune. They quickly give into the fear projected on them by the leaders who are threatened by Jesus’ true power, as he refers in today’s Passion reading, a power from above. Fear becomes the call of the people in the face of such love, passion, and suffering; Jesus stands in the midst of it watching it crumble, a world created by man while he opens the door to THE Kingdom, built on love.

Yet, we become what we hate. We are uncomfortable with Good Friday and everything that is good about it. We’re uncomfortable with the emptiness of the church, showing the depths of our own being and where God invites. We’re uncomfortable to come and reverence in some way the wood of the cross that will lie before us. Something deep within us tries to hold us back from approaching the emptiness, the wood of the cross, despite the knowing of a deeper reality that this is the true us imprinted on our very souls. Rather than becoming what we hate, the Cross invites us to become the love that God created us to be.

You see, this cross isn’t just some external reality that we come and venerate. No, it’s our story, unfolding every day of our lives, leading us deeper into the recesses of our being, the emptiness that leads us to a radical poverty, a radical love, that can only be manifested by a God that loves beyond all understanding. This is the day, not to mourn, but, yes, to remember the death of Christ, but the reality that it’s our story as well. We don’t have to settle for becoming what it is that we hate. There’s enough hatred and violence in the name of God in our world; but our God leads us to the truth of who we are as people, through the cross, into the depths of our being, our soul, imprinted by Christ, to become who Christ was and is to us, God’s great and everlasting love and to share that gift with the world. It comes through a radical poverty and emptiness of our lives, through the cross. It comes through a radical love, only possible through the cross. It comes from a great trust that Christ invites us into this day, naked, vulnerable, exposed, and yet, a love that transforms our lives and our world not into what and who we hate but into a manifestation of that love. O Come, Let us Adore.