Living the question
Text: Mark 8:27-38
Jesus and his friends were walking along the way, talking together, and as usual, the conversation began to turn in strange directions. Jesus does this sometimes, pushing the conversation in a way that perplexes his companions or asking them strange questions or giving them even stranger commands.
After some talk about his identity, he pressed them to understand what it means to follow him. That it means standing up for him even when their lives are at stake, for in the days that Mark’s readers were first hearing this story, Christians themselves were being crucified by Rome for confessing Jesus as Lord. To identify as a Christian literally meant risking their lives. Who would want to do that?
This was a really hard one for his companions on that day.
But Jesus keeps pressing the question. Would it be worth saving your life if you had to deny Jesus to do it? What kind of life would that be that you had saved, if it meant you had denied the one who gave you life?
For what will it profit someone to gain the whole world but lose their life? Indeed, what can a person give in return for their life?
Jesus asks these questions not expecting an immediate answer of course. When we’re in the presence of Jesus it’s not about getting the right answer. It's about living the questions. It’s about listening to him, being taught by him, for the purpose of learning how to live a particular kind of life that he is calling us to. A life that requires something of us. And today he is asking us to remember that our lives are actually worth more than anything, more than everything, so why would we squander that life on things that are not, in the end, important?
The poet Mary Oliver asked the question another way in her wonderful and much quoted poem “The Summer Day.” “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” She asks.
I like Mary Oliver’s way of putting it. What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
So that’s our question for today, the day we are celebrating our homecoming, our re-gathering as a community to begin again another season in the life of All Saints Church. We ask ourselves as individuals - how are we going to follow Jesus this year as the world around us churns and roils and begs us to spend our time and our selves accumulating stuff and engaging in activity that is not life-giving to us? How are we going to stand for what he calls us to stand for when we are so busy and distracted?
And we ask ourselves as a parish which also has just one wild and precious life. What are we going to do with that life so that we are following Jesus and not squandering it on stuff that is not giving life to the community around us? How are we going to witness to God’s faithfulness and love, God’s generosity and mercy, and live out God’s fervent desire for us to do God’s work in the world around us?
The stakes are high, Jesus says. The stakes are high. So what are we going to do with our one wild and precious, God-given, beautiful life?