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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Matthew 20:18, 26-28

Jesus says to his disciples,

"We are going up to Jerusalem, and the "Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified ...

"Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave - just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Just as in yesterday's Gospel, Jesus again points us toward what Richard Rohr calls the "path of descent," a way of owning our own weaknesses and allowing God to transform us. Jesus pioneered that path:

One can argue doctrinally about many aspects of Jesus, but you cannot say he was not a poor man, that he did not favor the perspective from the "bottom" as a privileged viewpoint. All other heady arguments about Jesus must deal with this overwhelming given.*

So I climb up the ladder; but more to the point, Jesus climbs down. He descended into earth, into mocking, flogging and crucifixion, and only then ascended into heaven. So my search for success and fulfillment and self-awareness and healthy lifestyle might be taking a little higher priority in my life than it should.

Measuring God's blessing by my own values ... not so good.

Rohr points out the obvious: he only learns important things about himself and God when he fails. He learns nearly nothing when he succeeds. Without the powerlessness that comes in the midst of failure, human beings just don't know how to surrender to God.

John Wimber used to tell the members of his congregation to pray for 200 people ... and only then check to see how they're doing. He himself prayed for sick people time after time for week after week before anything at all happened. But then, finally, when he had given up all hope, the dam broke and God started healing everybody.

John learned the lesson he then taught the rest of his life: although we don't know when he'll do it, God does his work through all of us. "Everybody gets to play," he said. When we follow Jesus down the path of descent, and don't stop following him, the path eventually turns upward and we discover that heaven is suddenly, just now, all around.

Lord Jesus, I am afraid to follow the path you've taken, and yet I know you want nothing less for me. Put your hands around my heart and hold me close. *

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