I well remember a man, somewhat advanced in years, telling me that “growing old is not for sissies!”
Next Sunday’s texts remind us that living the life of faith can be much the same.
Is there room in contemporary experience for the twin terror of God’s absence and God’s presence? Can we know both at the same time? Job maintains a God-focus even from the bottom of the pit of his despair – he would contend with God if at all possible but at the same time shrinks from God’s total “otherness.” Both absence and the presence are impossibly felt at the same time. No easy answer – simply a call to attend to the paradox of God in the midst of life’s toughest struggles.
Jesus poignantly recited the opening phrase of this psalm while hanging on the cross. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” For the devout Jew, to recite the first line of a psalm is to hold the hymn in its fullness. It is evident that the lived experience of God in simultaneous presence and absence is strongly expressed through the faith of Israel and there are no qualms or reticence in giving this feeling strong expression.
The burden of the writer of this work is to lead Jewish Christians to a sound understanding of the work of Jesus as Messiah in reconciling humanity to the Creator. He does not mince words in relaying how God’s word is like a two-edged sword, inflicting painful cuts that divide “soul from spirit, joints from marrow.” Jesus’ work as “High Priest” however, introduces a fresh element to the equation, enabling confidence and trust in knowledge of God’s favourable stance towards humanity.
A would be follower of Jesus retreats when he learns what would be required of him. Peter voices the protests of his peers about all they have given up to follow Jesus’ way. It is apparent that following Jesus is not for sissies! All over the world are multitudes who pay the cost to follow this way – in recent days I have heard of persecution in India, suppression in China and, last night, a young Palestinian speak of living the non-violent life of Christ’s way under the severe duress of occupation. Mark’s Gospel was penned by a community experiencing extreme duress as the result of becoming Christian. It is an expected part of the Way.