June 16th, 2024

By the Way: God’s spirit pushes doors open, to reveal God’s glory

By Medicine Hat News on June 23, 2018.

Fear is a powerful emotion, which drives us to do all manner of horrible and inexplicable things. We are too often prone to fear when faced with something or someone who is different than us. We regularly jump to the wrong conclusions about those with different cultural practices, different languages, and different ways of seeing the world.

And so has it always been. There’s always someone who knows the right way to behave — who is quick to challenge behaviour that falls outside the lines and who will correct us to protect us. There will always be those who imagine that their job is to keep the rest of us on the straight and narrow. Their “fear of the Lord” has become “fear for the Lord,” whom they must protect at all costs. God is eternal and unchanging (they say) and so must our ideas about God, our approach to God, and our witness to God remain ever the same.

But Jesus isn’t like that. Jesus shows no fear. He follows a path of love, guided by God’s Spirit; teaching, healing and bringing hope. Jesus’s approach is troubling to those who are more concerned about maintenance of the faith than living the faith. These “scribes from Jerusalem” (whom we meet in Mark 3:22) have orthodoxy (Proper practice) on their minds. But Jesus doesn’t fit any of the established patterns. His difference makes him strange. Strangeness is to be feared. He must be silenced.

The impasse in Mark’s gospel leads to Jesus’s trial and execution. The authorities will imagine themselves vindicated when the tomb is sealed, but they are mistaken — it is not finished. In matters of justice, compassion and love, God will not be denied. Death is no deterrent. Fear — even the most primal fear — is swept away by the love that raises Jesus from the tomb. Fearlessness is the most striking characteristic of Jesus disciples after his resurrection. Fear that promotes discrimination because it is familiar; that silences fresh thinking, and craves certainty at the expense of wonder; that clings to power for the sake of power has lost its power thanks to the risen Christ.

Unless we claim the freedom from fear that Christ offers us, we are doomed to dwell on our differences.

Until we claim that freedom, we can only measure our efforts against the work of Jesus, revealed in Scripture; work that liberates rather than holds captive; work that demonstrates a desire for understanding, compassion and the collective good. Jesus aim was to make the family bigger, not to circle the wagons and bar the doors. God’s spirit pushes doors open, and knocks down walls, the better to reveal God’s glory.

Rev. Jeff Lackie is minister of Word & Sacrament, St. John’s Presbyterian Church.

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