Posted by: owizblog | April 25, 2016

BBC Radio 4 LW: Daily Service, 25 April 2016 (9.45 a.m.)

If you fill in forms online, or use an internet search engine, you will probably be familiar with “autocomplete”, that magical computer function that automatically suggests how you might finish something you’ve started to type. It can save time. It can be terribly irritating. It can also prompt the mind to fresh thoughts.

 

In today’s reading, a man who’s lived well, successfully, seeks completion. Something is missing. He’s a distant figure, from a first-century, near-eastern world. We can’t just turn him into a comtemporary of ours!  But we might sum up his frame of mind by a very contemporary five-word phrase – an unfinished phrase, a phrase in search of a completion.

 

“I’m ready for a new dot, dot, dot.”

 

I did an internet search, typed in those words, and autocomplete stepped in.

 

“I’m ready for a new…

…beginning

…challenge

…relationship

I’m ready for a new job…

…adventure

…hairstyle

…direction…”

 

Now, none of these can be what’s missing from a first-century man’s life! But I wonder how many of them actually represent what their twenty-first century utterers really want, or need. “I’m ready for a new…” Dot, dot, dot…

 

It doesn’t complete itself.

 

Maybe this is where first-century and twenty-first century human beings can stand on common ground.

 

“Something’s lacking – but I don’t know what it is…”

 

HYMN: We sing, now, Bianco da Siena’s great invocation of the God who knows us deeper than we know ourselves: Come down, o Love Divine

 

Let us pray:

 

We are restless, Lord.

And we are tired.

We totter from goal to goal, from purpose to purpose,

Seeking where to invest ourselves,

And nothing satisfies.

And we are tired of fighting what we know to be true;

That if we were but to relinquish, and trust,

And follow where Christ leads,

We would find our hearts’ rest in you.

 

Lord, have mercy on us

Christ, have mercy on us

Lord, have mercy on us.

 

Call us to leave our exhausting, draining ease,

Our terrifying safety;

Call us to relax into energetic service

Call us anew to that frightening, bracing dependence on you alone,

Which alone is our freedom, and our hearts’ rest.
Amen

 

Reading: Mark 10:17-23

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: `Do not kill,’ ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honour your father and mother.'” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth.” And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!”

 

It’s hard not to think of the story’s opening in cartoon style with clouds of dust as the young man skids up and falls to his knees, breathless, all energy, blurting out his question: “Good teacher, what must I do…?” Mark’s sophisticated telling is marked by a huge loss of momentum; an intense human and spiritual slowing-down.

To start with, Jesus slows things down. He unpacks what the man blurted out, to examine what he means by it. “You know the commandments: `Do not kill,’ ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not steal’…'”

You know the answer to your own question – if that really is your question…

Slowed down like this, we can see that it isn’t. He seeks more.

“I have kept all these from my youth….”

This isn’t bragging. Six words tell us so. “Jesus, looking upon him, loved him…”

All this helps clarify what he isn’t asking…

Not “What kind of thing must one do to inherit eternal life?”

No. This is deeply personal.

“What must I do to inherit eternal life; to live as I really, authentically should, so that my living opens out onto life as God gives it? What is the more that’s asked of me?

We contemplate this now, led by the Glasgow Chamber Choir directed by Michael Bawtree and accompanied by Christopher Nickol, in Brent-Smith’s setting of George Herbert’s “Come, My Way, My Truth, My Life”.

[ANTHEM: “Come, My Way, My Truth, My Life”: Alexander Brent-Smith]

A man wants to know what he lacks before God.  But he hasn’t grasped that what’s lacking isn’t a something he can just add to everything he has, and keep the rest. That’s not how this works.

And it turns out – and this is what Jesus elicits – that he wants, too, to limit his liability, his exposure to risk.

And he himself hadn’t realized that.

“You lack one thing…” says Jesus.

“But surely,” we say, “He makes two demands:

Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’”

No. One demand.  Divest yourself, and reinvest yourself completely, in this radical thing, this call to follow.

To find our freedom in wanting what God wants for us is a huge act of faith.

  • To relinquish what we have, what we know, what has always been our security, to live in the world not as it is, but as it should be and shall be…
  • To be at the disposal of others, in love and service, not in servitude and fear…
  • To live, not out of present security, which may be much, or may be very little, but out of trust in God and the hope of the Kingdom…

He can’t do it. Not then. The alternative, the life he has, is too real. “He went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions…”

But is this story of an unfinished man a finished story?

Is that the end of it? Or did he come back?

We don’t know. His is an open, unfinished story. Perhaps what is impossible for him is not impossible for God…

 

Let us pray:

We are restless, Lord, suspended

Between the poles of what we have

And what we know is lacking,

What is known, and comfortable, sometimes even in its discomfort

And the glorious, terrifying prospect

Of following where you lead.

It can be:

  • The same room in which we sit;
  • The same world in which we walk, whose old necessities press in on us;
  • The same life we live, whose old routines enfold us;

In which we know the timid consolations of what we have,

Or the bracing risk of trust, and faith, and hope.

 

Set us free from what we have

That has us in its possession;

Set us free from what we were;

That chains us to who-we-are-not;

Set us free to point beyond the world as it is,

To the world as it should be and shall be,

In Christ’s name, who taught us to say:

 

Our Father

Who art in heaven,

Hallowed be thy name;

Thy Kingdom come,

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread

And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil

For thine is the power, the kingdom and the glory for ever

Amen.

 

We sing:

Lord, speak to me that I may speak/ In living echoes of Thy tone…

 

God’s Spirit of mercy, truth and love,

Give us the honesty and courage

To look at our lives as they are

Free us from our timid ease,

strengthen us to answer God’s call; [33 words]

 

Christ, Master, loving brother,

Bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh,

Call us back into the way of discipleship,

That we may leave all and follow him;

 

God our Father, ground and meaning of our being

Draw us away from all distractions,

To the work and hope and joy of his kingdom

That our hearts may trust, and rest in him. [34 words]

 

And the Blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Be with you all, now and evermore.

Amen

 

 

 


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