Monday, May 14, 2012

Jesus came for the unwell

Jesus wants to hang out with imperfect people. The first two chapters of Mark’s Gospel make this clear. Chapter One introduces Jesus:
  • Vs 1: “Jesus Christ – the Son of God”
  • Vs 12: “the Beloved Son”
  • Vs 24: “the Holy One of God”
Here is God’s man – one who is special to God – one who is recognized as being holy. We would logically expect that a holy man should spend his time in the synagogues of the villages and the Temple in Jerusalem… basically hanging out with the religious people. But Mark springs the surprise: Jesus does not go to the religious people:
Mar 1:40  “A leper came to him begging him…” This is a man who was thought to be under God’s curse, but Jesus embraces him with love.
Mark 2 vs 1 tells of a paralyzed man lying on his bed being brought to Jesus … another cursed man who is loved by Jesus.
Mark 2: 14 introduces Levi the Tax collector into Jesus’s circle of friends. This was someone who by collecting the Roman taxes from his own people was considered a traitor to the nation. Here is one cast out of the community of faith, but befriended by Jesus!
Finally Mark 2 vs 23 tells how the four men who were with Jesus (Peter, Andrew, James and John) refused to fast and broke the Sabbath Laws. Jesus friends were irreligious unbelievers and men without the rituals of faith.  
To sum up, it would seem that Jesus spent his time with:
Ø  People who seemed cursed by God
Ø        People who were cast out of their community
Ø  People who had no faith
Which makes me feel a whole lot better!
Mark’s Gospel offers me hope, because I have moments when I am not perfect:
Ø I have moments when I am like the man on the mat – I feel sick and tired, and other people need to get me to Jesus because I am paralyzed by the pressures of life.
Ø I have moments when I am like Levi – I am distracted by the play-things of life, and I betray the values of Jesus.
Ø I have moments when I do not get all my religious rituals right:
It is good news to know that Jesus will still hang out with me!
At the same time I am challenged to offer the same courtesy to other people. There is often the temptation to write off people because they do not fit into my religious expectations:
My most recent experience of this is to be found with my friend Ross Olivier, who committed suicide 10 days ago. A number of people have suggested that he must have lost his faith / or that he had betrayed his faith / and that he would be cursed by God.
And as I read the actions of Jesus in Mark I am able to answer: “Well it seems like this is the kind of person that Jesus hung out with”. You see, Jesus intentionally chose to be with those who are paralyzed by life, or who seem to have betrayed their faith, or seem to feel cursed by God and society. I am convinced that God was with Ross in those black moments when he could no longer cope with life: and that God’s embrace held him in his desperate flight from life. And that God welcomed him the other side of death.

Allow me to ask whether there are outcasts of society that we might know? And allow me to challenge us to offer them the same unconditional love and acceptance that Jesus did … this is called Grace.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

100 days - 100 runs

"Methinks that the moment my legs began to move, my thoughts began to flow."
These words from Henry David Thoreau, American author, poet, and  philosopher, sum up the past 100 days.  Every morning at 5 am I join Mark, my running partner, on our morning run. We have set ourselves the goal of running six out of seven days of the week for a year (2012).

In the wisdom Thoreau, Mark and I get on the road – and we talk. Our conversations range from the deeply serious to the hilariously irreverent.  There have been moments when we have addressed the problems of the word - we have solutions for corruption, for Microsoft, for Toyota and for coping with ageing.  There have also been moments when we have laughed our way through conversations on bee-stings, sprinting the last 100 meters of the Comrades, and King Henry Vlll’s attempts to find a wife.     
Thoreau was also deeply interested in the idea of survival in the face of hostile elements, historical change and natural decay. Well we have faced it all. While the past 100 days have been the summer days of the year – so most mornings have been a cool prelude to hot days – of late we have become aware of the mornings gradually growing darker and the air getting crisper. We have moved from a simple T-shirt to a more recent introduction of gloves and a “chill-cheater”. I expect that shortly we will replace our caps with “beanies” to keep our heads warm. The one great exception in this gradual cooling off was the Two Oceans Marathon, where we ran through six hours of pouring rain.  

Natural decay is the other great challenge: the human body is our greatest challenge! Both Mark and I have had to deal with injuries, fevers and the constant inclination to “just plain laziness”.  We both readily admit that if it was not for the other person we would not get up in the morning. We also have had to run through various aches and pains, nursing sore muscles and joints until they improve. We are committed to running at least 300 days of this year – so we are not afraid to have moments on the run when self-preservation for the long haul demands a spot of walking. Our one golden rule is, however, “we run downhills”. 

To sum up the past 100 days: In the words of running writer John Bingham “we learn through running to take what the days gives us, what our body will allow us, and what our will can tolerate."

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