As part of the devotional writing team at church, I get assigned verses and then have to come up with a soundbite that resonates in 350 words or less. Easy peasy. Yeah…not so much.
One, you guys know 350 words come out of my mouth at a time. Two, Scripture is hard.
I also started teaching an Old Testament overview class at church – which I love! – but hello…Old Testament. Also hard.
None of this is easy, and I don’t mean play your violin for me because I want you to think things about what I’m doing. I mean studying and learning and trying to talk about God and Jesus and the story when our stories and churches and lives are so messed up is what’s hard.
Sometimes it feels so ridiculously difficult that it’s not even worth it.
But then you reach somebody. You help them through a tough time. You give them hope.
And you realize that you have just taught all there is to know.
More soon. In the meantime, below is the last devotional I submitted yesterday (in 371 words. Work in progress, people. WIP.)
When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters; for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’” –Mark 14:26-27 (Full text, Mark 14:26-31)
There is no greater blessing in this world for me than the gift of friendship. Relationship. Being in “togetherness.” Jesus was with his friends in Gethsemane when he meets the dreadful silence of that which is about to take place. The response of the disciples – Jesus’s friends whom had just sang and walked with him to the Mount of Olives – was, to us, deplorable. There is no way WE would have deserted Jesus in his moment of trial!
Yet, the shallowness of the disciples stood in contrast to the faithfulness of Jesus. Intuiting what would happen, he continued to reach out to his friends in love in the hope of encouraging their eventual recovery of faith. While I’m sure deeply hurt, Jesus was neither disillusioned nor resentful.
Peter, true to form as always seeing himself as special, vehemently told Jesus, “Even if I have to die with you, I shall not disown you.” We all know that is exactly what he did three times. Yet, Peter’s response was in some respects admirable. It indicated a spontaneous love and solidarity, i.e. friendship.
I think the point here is that as clearly as we can envision Jesus eating The Last Supper with his well-intentioned friends whose faith and commitment were deficient, we can also clearly see ourselves. Most of us have good intentions of being faithful friends, but good intentions are not enough. Most of us intend to be good, to show up, to help others, to be more compassionate, more prayerful, more forgiving. It’s just that there is a gap between what we intend and what we actually do.
Friendship is not passivity (sleeping disciples), and it is not aggression (Peter defending Jesus with a sword). Friendship is embodied in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice.
Lord Jesus, we thank you for having love for us that is greater than anything. And we thank you for showing us that love by laying down your life for us – your friends. Amen.