Big Picture vs little irritants

Thoughts on Mark 9:14-29

Earlier you sent your disciples out two by two and gave them authority to heal people and to cast out evil spirits. Today you return from the mountain and come upon a scene of chaos and disruption. The scribes arguing with your disciples, the crowds gawking and eager for a show. “What’s going on?” you ask. A man with a son who had been tormented by an evil spirit since his childhood had brought him to you hoping you would heal the boy. Since you were not around, the disciples, practiced as they were at casting out spirits, felt up to handling the situation. But apparently not. Later, when they question you about why they weren’t up to snuff, you explained how the power of the Spirit is generated by the behind the scenes practices of prayer and fasting.

Here is another moment  when it seems you are a bit testy with the crowd and with your disciples. Humanly, I can understand this. You were up on the mountain talking with Elijah and Moses, and then Peter, James and John about what was just around the corner: your death. With this weighty, big picture scenario on your mind, you return and find your disciples, the ones to whom you’ve chosen to entrust the job of carrying out your mission, squabbling with religious authorities and ineffective in exercising the power of the Spirit. Who wouldn’t be impatient?

But you center down and give your attention to the worrying father. You put all else on pause and talk to the man, gathering his history, his story, his pain, even his doubt. How gracious you are and how brave and true he was. He did not let his doubt keep him from coming to you and asking for what he desired. He owned his disbelief and trusted that the amount of belief he did have would be sufficient. And it was.

Jesus, you modeled for me how to love my neighbor well. I have my own weighty, big picture scenario filling my head and my mind, and yet, if I follow your example, I am to not miss out on the opportunity to pay attention to those around me, their needs, their concerns. And then do what I can, by your grace and power to address their issues. Oh, Jesus. give me such a mind and heart, one that is consumed with the big picture, doing whatever is necessary for my transformation into your image; and then knows the path to this goal leads through the active loving of my neighbor.

Silly example, but how kind you are to allow me to practice what I preach immediately. Here I am, composing this lofty and very significant piece about you and how important it is to pay attention to the needs of those around me, with my dog jumping up on my chair trying to sit on my lap totally disrupting my important work. I’m irritated with her and rise to banish her to the other room when I notice how eager she is to play; so I put my important work aside and take her outside for a run in our yard. She’s excited, rushing from spot to spot, the snow is melting and there are new smells to discover. And then I notice. Where the snow has melted daffodils have begun to emerge! Spring is around the corner and I am filled with joy and hope. I would of missed this if I had continued on with my important work.

Then there’s the uncertain, but hopeful father, the one who dared to trust his faith in you rather than his doubts about you. From him I learn how to handle my fears and my doubts: come to you anyway. Don’t let my doubts, in whatever from they take, keep me from you. Let my faith in who you are and all you promise be stronger than my doubts. Doubt is passing faith is rising. Running to you, trusting you, even with my limited faith gives grace to increase my belief and decrease my unbelief. The amount of faith I have, when acted upon, is enough!

And those earnest, but ineffective disciples; learn from them, Debby. The power of the Spirit cannot be taken for granted. You cannot rest on your laurels. Sure, God showed up in a profound way at those retreats in January and used you and your gifts to create space for Jesus to connect with the ones he loves, but in order to be the vessel that carries such graces, you must continue to pursue the Kingdom of God, and practice the disciplines of the Spirit. Be mindful of the necessity of remaining connected to the vine to be a fruitful branch.

Thank you and Amen.

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