Answer Me

Psalm 6

3 (2) Be gracious to me, Adonai,
because I am withering away;
heal me, Adonai,
because my bones are shaking;
4 (3) I am completely terrified;
and you, Adonai — how long?
5 (4) Come back, Adonai, and rescue me!

Lamentations 1:17-22

20 “See, Adonai, how distressed I am!
Everything in me is churning!
My heart turns over inside me,
because I have been so rebellious.
Outside, the sword brings bereavement;
inside, it is like death.

2 Corinthians 1:8-22

The burden laid on us was so far beyond what we could bear that we even despaired of living through it. In our hearts we felt we were under sentence of death. However, this was to get us to rely not on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead! ****18 As surely as God is trustworthy, we don’t say “Yes” when we mean “No.” 19 For the Son of God, the Messiah Yeshua, who was proclaimed among you through us — that is, through me and Sila and Timothy — was not a yes-and-no man; on the contrary, with him it is always “Yes!” 20 For however many promises God has made, they all find their “Yes” in connection with him; that is why it is through him that we say the “Amen” when we give glory to God.

Mark 11:27-33

30 “The immersion of Yochanan — was it from Heaven or from a human source? Answer me.” 31 They discussed it among themselves: “If we say, ‘From Heaven,’ he will say, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 32 But if we say, ‘From a human source, . . . ’” — they were afraid of the people, for they all regarded Yochanan as a genuine prophet. 33 So they answered Yeshua, “We don’t know.” “Then,” he replied, “I won’t tell you by what s’mikhah (authority through laying on of hands) I do these things.”

I feel as if the readings today are talking specifically about things that are actually happening to me right now. At least until the Gospel. I had to work at getting the point of the Gospel to mesh with the other readings.

I can’t be too finicky about interpreting the meaning of these passages, because they are so literally apt and true to what I am going through right now. So, what about this Gospel? What does it have to do with my bones shaking because I’m terrified, or with my insides churning and my heart turning over inside me? How have I been rebellious? Outside of me the sword cuts off the things I love, and inside of me it’s like death. What does it have to do with feeling like I might get an ulcer, or die of a heart attack or stroke because of the stress? There is a clue in Corinthians— to get us to rely not on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead! Paul is talking from hindsight, but nevertheless, I found my head nodding when I realized it was when I starting relying on God that I began to find my balance in the midst of misery. That was when I began to realize that it didn’t matter whether I survived or not; that God would go right on being God and that I can’t possibly fall out of the universe, no matter what happens.

Then the Gospel suddenly made sense. I can’t prevaricate with God. No dithering; no quibbling; no hedging my bets. If I try, all God does is look at me and say, “I’m not going to answer that question.”

On the other hand, if I stop trying to cut in front of God to get there first, things settle down.

If I don’t insist on holding options in reserve; if I don’t worry about what someone else might be thinking, or why they’re doing what they’re doing; if I stop yelling at God, “How long?” and just do whatever comes next— that’s when I remember that God has never left; that all of eternity is no longer than it was before, and it’s all here, right this minute.

That’s when I remember that trust isn’t something I produce, it’s something in which I participate. It isn’t an action, it’s a state of being. I can’t decide to do it, I can only decide to accept it. Trust is the bedrock underlying the question that Jesus asks those shifty lawyers.

I just remembered something I read once in one of C. S. Lewis’s books. He said that he thought that the desire to “have your cake and eat it too” was really the true source of all human evil and wrong-headedness. I get it. Jesus won’t have any part of that foolishness.

From the Buddhist end of things, it’s the foolishness of throwing something away with one hand and grabbing it with the other, all the while complaining about it.

Old Jesus, he’ll let me dither in the doorway as long as I like.

He just won’t put the food on the table until I come in and sit down.


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