Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Faith Works 4-7

Faith Works 4-7-12

Jeff Gill


To Be Someone, Whatever the Cost




Here's the thing.


Pilate wanted to be somebody.


He was Roman procurator, but the job could be revoked by the Emperor at the drop of a toga. There had been rebellions, and a Roman ruler in the provinces of empire was judged by how briefly such rebellions lasted, and how many were killed in retaliation.


(The "how many killed" part was a feature, not a bug, from the point of view of systems administrators back in Rome.)


Peter wanted to be somebody.


He'd just been another Simon back on the lakeshore in Galilee, but with his new nickname of Cephas in Aramaic, Petros in Greek, (Rock in English), he had a new sense of himself as strong and reliable, maybe even central.


Saul wanted to be somebody.


The Sanhedrin student in Jerusalem who had to have heard the ruckus in the streets, but never came out of his studies enough to see who the fuss was all about; he'd come down to the spiritual capital of Judaism because from Tarsus out in the sticks, this was where you came to make your mark. He'd get a new name soon, too, shifting into gentile Greek and getting called Paul.


Mary Magdalene wanted to be somebody.


Her reputation has morphed and been mangled over the generations, most recently by "The DaVinci Code," but her role in those last days is second only to Mary herself. She was as much of a leader as her time and place allowed, and maybe more so; she sees things sooner, more clearly than even the men who were called visionaries in that early group of Christ-followers.


The centurion at the cross wanted to be somebody.


You didn't just earn the rank of centurion by correspondence course. It took being seen at the front of the fighting, known as a leader among the enlisted and the conscripts by the officers, the equites looking down from their horses and their social prominence. If they saw you as one who could serve their thirst for conquest, you might be plucked from the ranks of private soldier and made a commander of a hundred, a centurion. Of course, you also got the duties that the officers didn't want to dirty their hands with.


That man in Florida wanted to be somebody.


You know the fellow I mean, who was riding around for years, calling the police frequently, carrying a gun always, wanting to protect his neighborhood and be acknowledged by law enforcement as a peer. His goal was something just a bit beyond safety, but also to be seen as someone who was bringing safety to his community.


And the teen he shot, that young man wanted to be somebody.


He'd been talking to a girlfriend on the phone, which always makes a male want to be someone in a strong and certain way. Running down to the store during a break in a basketball game, he'd had a tough week for a youth, struggling at school and with his separated parents to establish who he was, what kind of man he could become … which now he will never do.


We all want to be someone. And those desires and intentions push out into the world, and run up against the "someone-ness" of others, who are trying to shape the world's view of them by forcing the impress of their image, their character, their (our?) qualities into the material around them.


The problem is that the world isn't all that soft; it doesn't take impressions easily, and when we're up against someone else, they tend to push back.


Jesus, the story of this week reminds us, was someone. The story of the church tomorrow is that Jesus IS someone, but hold onto that until sunrise. During the events of what we call "Holy Week," Jesus was someone, but he did relatively little to push that image onto anyone.


Day by day, the agendas and concerns of those surrounding him tried to push Jesus into a mold of their own making.


There are miracles of Easter beyond even the resurrection, although that is the central celebration, the key mystery. But when Jesus took the cross, and made it his own, a sign of his true self and a symbol of triumph – that miracle makes us look at all the ways we seek ourselves, and see them as broken molds.


To die to self, and live for others. Is that someone we can be? I hope you hear an answer to that tomorrow.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him your story at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow Knapsack @Twitter.

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