The apostle Paul had quite a pedigree – circumcised on the eighth day, of the tribe of Benjamin, above reproach in following Jewish laws, so zealous that he adamantly persecuted the early Jesus movement. And then, in a flash of light, his life changed. Jesus “grabbed hold of [him]” (Phil. 3:12). He came to realize that everything he used to believe and practice paled in comparison to connection Jesus had with the Divine. And from that point on, Paul was “all in”. He would not only talk the talk, but walk the walk, no matter what happened. Lock him in prison, throw him overboard, beat him, ridicule him, run him out-of-town, and still he would keep going.
(For the full audio version, click here.)
To continue the metaphor from last week, Paul had found his true rudder, that which would guide him through the seas of life. And he would hold onto that rudder come hell or high water.
Most of us, on the other hand, probably prefer to keep Jesus at arm’s length. When I was a student, the pastor I was interning with looked at me one day as I was trying valiantly to get everything “right” and said, “Kaye, there is only one Jesus, and you ain’t him.” Whew. What a relief, I was off the hook. I thought that was great until this last week when I realized that I’d used this as an excuse to place Jesus up on a high shelf and out of reach – not my reach, his! Having Jesus grab hold of us is a terrifying concept.
To let Jesus grab hold of us means that we would probably be uncomfortable. We’d probably find our lives turned upside down and inside out. Jesus wasn’t some fluffy, feel good preacher (though he did talk a lot about love). Jesus challenged the social, economic and political structures of the day. Jesus challenged the righteous, higher-up-muckety-mucks of the Jewish religion. He encouraged personal change, but didn’t leave it at that. Personal change had to lead to social change.
Having Jesus as our rudder means that we would be stretched beyond our “paltry little selves.” In the words of Joan Chittester, “We must begin to ask ourselves what it takes to teem with the life of the universe, to move to the vibrations of the soul.” Having Jesus as our rudder demands our commitment to discovering the essence of life. To try again and again to find the path that is life-giving. To trust that every moment in life has something to teach us about what it means to live well. (Welcome to the Wisdom of the World, page 57-59)
Once upon a time there was a woman who sought out a famous spiritual master. She finally found him seated at the edge of the lake. Bowing low, she asked him to help her develop a deep connection to the Divine. He simply looked at her, handed her a sieve and told her to go fill it with water. Well, she walked into the lake and tried over and over again to fill the sieve with water, only to fail and return to him frustrated and confused. In answer to her struggle, the master took the sieve from her and tossed it into the water.
We can not just dip our sieve in and expect to be filled. We can’t keep Jesus on the shelf and expect to learn all that he has to teach. We have to be all in.