I was going to preach on Psalm 22 this morning, but no matter how hard I tried, no inspiration came. (Maybe that says a bit that the psalm strikes close to home with my own struggles of depression.) So, I want to set aside the painful depiction of one who has suffered tremendously in Psalm 22. I mention it because we need to be reminded that life is not always a bed of roses and sometimes when we’ve been bullied or have lived through particularly dark periods, we need to say because we feel isolated and alienated, “God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”
I left presbytery in Creston early yesterday to be with the Ascension Lutheran Church last night as they celebrate this weekend 50 years of ministry in Rosemont. As I left, Presbytery was figuring out what our future will look like now that presbytery is done. I look forward to hearing how that conversation finished. I have to say that I felt a little sad as our Kootenay regional area is no longer meeting together. And of course, today is John’s last day and I wanted to be here for that.
As always, Biblical passages are full of layers of meaning. In Mark, for example, we are told that the rich young man couldn’t sell his belongings. He is sad about that. The word sad is a lesser used Greek word that means gloomy or clouded over, kind of like a cloudy day. His sight was clouded over and he couldn’t see clearly.
And then we are told that Jesus looked at the disciples and said, “With people, some things are impossible; but with God, everything is possible.” Note, that the possible is given a positive statement regarding God: with God, everything is possible. That positive affirmation of God is important. And secondly, while the rich young man’s eyesight is cloudy, Jesus looked directly at the disciples and spoke those words of truth with clarity. Jesus’ eyesight is clear and unclouded.
Now, I want to say straight off that the teaching Jesus offered about “possibility” isn’t some pie-in-the-sky belief. Ched Myers uses a phrase, the “possible impossibility” of God. It is the idea that God helps human beings shift the impossible reality that many face: the oppression, depression, repression and political alienation that many experience CAN shift into the new Commonwealth of God… the new KinDom of God that is both attainable and real!
Part of this new KinDom is the idea that we don’t need to be defined by what others think or say about us. We don’t need to be conformed to a certain way of being in the world. Some of us like to think we invented this idea of non-conformity in today’s world, but it was an idea that Jesus espoused 2000 years ago. Gender? Jew or Greek? LGBTQ? Defining ourselves by our illnesses or challenges? Wealthy? Poor? Healthy? Whole? Jesus pushed beyond these categorizations and empowered all to live free and to see a world—without cloudy eyes—of radical inclusion and hope. It is the possible impossibility.
The Greek word, “possible,” is related to the word that gives us dynamism, i.e. power. It is the idea that one has the power and ability to make something happen. God has the power to make a radical KinDom of peace and love possible, but of course, as Jesus points out and many spiritual leaders over the years have said, God cannot do this without our willing participation.
So, this passage is a wake-up call. It is a call to wake up, open the blinds and look outside to see a clear, blue-sky day with no clouds. Our own cloudiness is washed away and we have the hope of a new day to confront the things that weigh us down. It might be our own sense of unease, depression, anxiety, PTSD; it might be despair that yet another exclusivist and racist is going to be elected in Brazil. The KinDom of God—the Commonwealth of God or the Kingdom of God as we have it in the New RSV Bible—all point to a new community of hope and love where all are free to be whole beings.
This new community is not an idealistic impossibility. It relies on the power of God and the power of love and compassion to create a new way. Part of the dynamic of the power involved is that we each bring our gifts to the new community. The new community relies on us all, young, old and everything in between. It is a community that celebrates God’s presence and acts on that presence in how we live our lives, how we build our relationships, how we elect our politicians, and how we construct our societies.
The young man sought eternal life; Jesus invited him to focus on the here-and-now and that was when his eyesight got cloudy. Eternal life isn’t something we focus on as a future thing we earn when we die; it is about the here-and-now. Eternal life is the precious gift of life we’ve been given today and the way in which, even if we are feeling rather blue and despairing on a given day, we embrace the day and live life fully. For as we heard last week at Thanksgiving from Brother David Steindl-Rast, today is the only moment we have.
And so, we share our gifts in the new community of love and compassion; we spread our wings and move beyond categorization. I give thanks for this community over the past almost 24 years and give thanks for you, John, and your gifts and long service as the accompanist, choir director, and friend. We’ll miss you, but we are also excited for you on the new journey of your life. We pray that you will continue to live the possible impossibility of bringing the gift of music and life to others in all that you do in your new future. May the same be said for all of us.