Today I am sitting at a retreat centre in Squamish (well, about 17km outside of Squamish and about 12km outside of cell range), doing some consultation work for the wider church.
This week what I am Thinking about, what I am Grateful for, what Inspires me, and how I am living out my Faith, are all jumbled together, not separated out tidily. I hope you are able to glean these four TGIF markers from what I have written, but if not, that is ok too. Enjoy…
The Christian Bible is not one book, as some of you know, it is 66 books smooshed together and bound as one. There are four we call the Gospels, which tell of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. They are not perfect – they overlap and conflict and compliment one another. And they are written with four distinctly different voices. Right now, I am studying the Gospel according to Mark.
Mark does not ease us in with the lovely genealogy of Matthew or the “orderly account” of the good news offered in Luke. It does not woo us in with a poetic whisper and build us up to the proclamation of the Word as John does. Mark just blasts right in, gets down to business, gives us a Gospel smack-in-the face, right off the bat: BAM. Mark’s pace is relentless, a breathless sprint through the story – “and,” “and then,” “immediately,” “as soon as.” BAM BAM BAM.
And we know this pace, right?
Hockey, yoga, funeral, ballet, devotional, capoeira, walk the dog, get the groceries, liturgy, worship, social media…bam, bam, bam.
Reading Mark, it is easy to do what I sometimes do in life – blur it together as I go through the rapid pace.
The other day began like most others: up early, nice gentle prayer and meditation, study…20 minutes of yoga…then wake the kids, breakfasts ready, pack lunches, grab a shower, crap its piano day, where are your books? Runners on, lets go out the door. I dropped the kids off at school and followed my daily path from elementary school to church, the same route I take every day and fell into that zone out mode on the familiar path. I was rather snapped back to reality by flashing lights in my rear-view mirror. After attempting to move out of the constable’s way it occurred to me that I was being pulled over. As he approached my window, the officer asked if I was in a hurry, no, not particularly – was I speeding? I sounded more surprised and confused than I meant to. No not speeding, but you sure didn’t stop at that stop sign.
Huh. Yes, I am sure you are quite right.
He asked me when the last time I was pulled over for a traffic violation – I admitted that I was 17 years old the last time, he laughed and headed back to his cruiser to write up my ticket. He did let me off with a lesser fine (with fewer points deducted) because I had such a clean record, but he said, next time, just come to a complete stop. Fair enough.
And let me tell you – this past week, I have come to a complete stop at stop signs – every one. And you know what? It sucks. It is painful and awkward and I hate it. Apparently I hadn’t really been stopping at any stop sign, more yielding than anything. And yes, Comox is a small town and completely stopping at a stop sign at 9pm when the whole town has been in bed for 2 hours already seems stupid and unnecessary and, honestly, a total pain in the ass, but I have done it.
And damn it if Jesus didn’t show up right in the middle of my grumbling. *Tap, tap tap* um, excuse me Ingrid, but, well, exactly.
I can read the Gospel of Mark fairly quickly – read through its hurried pace at my own hurried pace and get to the end of it. I can pop from task to task, accomplishing all the items I need to accomplish each day and get to the end of it. But when I do that, I overlook how each task, place, and person, each verse and pericope and chapter, contributes to the whole of my life, to God’s whole story that is taking shape within me – within us – all around and beyond. Studying and preaching and teaching through Mark has forced me to come to a complete stop at each stop sign and notice the detail, the nuance, the character, the challenge, the familiarity in Mark that I can otherwise just breeze past. Mark intends for us to notice everything by tucking in a surprise detail here and there – Jesus sighing – to remind us that faith is made up of the real stuff of life. Coming to a complete stop at all the stop signs in my life – not just the literal ones, though those too – has helped me to refocus my priorities rightly. To pay attention to things great and small as I both receive and give myself to the transcendent yet incarnate God-with-us.
So a lesson in theology from Mark and that RCMP officer and Jesus just as I was rushing off to our ministry team meeting at church. Ha.
Perhaps as a spiritual exercise this week, you could come to a complete stop at every stop sign. And if you are like me you may find your self calling on the name of the Lord: Oh Jesus! but perhaps he will show up in sincerity and help you to notice all of the juicy tidbits of life.