Second Sunday in Lent, Year B

by Alfred Gorvie

A BRUTALLY HONEST INTERNAL LENTEN DIALOGUE

 

Jonas Ellison
Mark 8:31-38
Second Sunday in Lent, Year B

31Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes and be killed and after three days rise again. 32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
34He called the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “If any wish to come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

 

From Canva

In Christ’s dying, he’ll be right there with me in my own ego death (and my eventual bodily death as well)

Author’s introduction: This piece is written as an internal dialogue bouncing around in the head of a well-meaning Christian (poor soul) who encounters the weight of the cross in this passage and then – alleluia (oh, sorry, it’s Lent!) – becoming encountered and freed by the Gospel of Jesus. It’s a journey you might be familiar with and I hope it gives you a good Word to preach on.

Step 1: External Problem – Doggone it, people like me!
Hang on a red hot second here… I thought that being a Jesus follower would make my life… Better. To conjure my inner Stuart Smalley, I’ll quote from the classic Al Franken SNL character, “I deserve good things. I am entitled to my share of happiness. I refuse to beat myself up. I am an attractive person. I am fun to be with. I’m good enough. And I’m smart enough. And doggone it… People like me!” But during Lent – I’m called to name and confess my Sin. To repent. To lose my life and see that I’m not actually good or smart enough. Upon further examination, I’m a bore to be with, and not many people seem to like me a whole lot. Why not?! Is this the so-called ‘good life’ that Jesus is calling me to? It sounds like nothing but more heartbreak and sorrow.

Step 2: Internal Problem – Give me the wheel, Jesus!
I’ve been through so much. I just want life to be easier. I need some wins on this losing scorecard of life, Jesus. Give me at least some sense of control. Don’t just stand there and die. Why am I following you? Life is short, and if you’re not going to help me take the trajectory of my life up and to the right, Jesus, well… Tony Robbins sounds a heck of a lot more effective than this program you have going on here. I thought that if I could meet Jesus halfway, he’d deliver. I’m pretty sure I’m there. Now’s your turn, Jesus. And if you’re not going to drive this thing to the promised land, well, give me the wheel, Jesus.

Step 3: Eternal Problem – Can’t win for winning
Ugh… Look what I just said. Clearly, I’m ashamed of Jesus for not leveling up my life. And so Jesus is ashamed of me. That’s what he said, right there in the last line of this passage – “Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”  It’s like we can’t win for losing – we can’t even win for winning – with him!

From Canva

Step 4: Eternal Solution – Death to self
Listen to this mental chatter going on. It’s unbearable. All the work I’ve put in, it seems, is for naught. I’ve realized that I’m not in a whole lot better place than when I started (doggone it, people don’t really like me!). And Jesus wants to drag me down even further by making me lose my life.

Wait a minute… Maybe this voice in my head – this egoic narrative that is causing so much strife – is the part of me that Jesus is telling me to lose. Maybe in his dying, he’ll be right there with me in my own ego death (and my eventual bodily death as well). In Jesus, God doesn’t cast me into a life where I always need to be progressing. He finds me in the lowest valleys imaginable. I’m getting a sense of his closeness now. Jesus judges the part of me that judges myself as well as him. Perhaps this is the part of me that Jesus is lashing out at here. And if Jesus could put an end to this part of myself, wow… Think of what that would be like.

Step 5: Internal Solution – Freedom from self
This is so strange. I’m experiencing such… Peace. To think that maybe this whole ‘scorecard’ business that I mentioned earlier is an artifact of my deepest fears and insecurities. Maybe it has nothing to do with God or Jesus or even the real world. What freedom to think that I don’t have to make myself into someone that people like. Because what does that even mean? What an impossible idea. Wow… How fantastic to be free of this ideal image of self. What a liberating notion to know that Jesus wants to rip this scorecard of mine up into pieces because it never was real in the first place. What is possible for me if he were to do this?

Step 6: External Solution – Broken open in love
First of all, this mental chatter would be quieted, which would free up internal space to look out at my world more. I could stop obsessing over myself and instead become curious about other people for a change. It sure sounds nice to take myself far less seriously – even to laugh at myself every now and again. And maybe I could even (drumroll, please) like myself! In all of my messy brokenness.

The pressure that I project onto others would be released, too. How strange… It’s like by losing myself and allowing Jesus to end the part of me that yearns to be liked, I open myself to actually… being liked! But not in a fake, manipulative, or self-obsessed way. I’d be more focused on how God sees me rather than how I often see myself. Not as a project to be perpetually perfected but as a sinner who is forgiven and eternally beloved.

Author

  • Alfred Gorvie

    My passion for harnessing the power of data to better reflect on the past, understand the present and project into the future led me to earn a certificate in data analytics and visualization from Washington University in St. Louis, MO. With an innate curiosity and a problem-solving mindset, I am committed to delving deep into data, uncovering hidden insights that have the potential to bring about positive transformations. My goal is to contribute to a dynamic and quality-focused team, utilizing my skills to drive impactful outcomes. Let’s connect and collaborate on leveraging data for meaningful change!

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