Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hero Worship

We have a desire for heroes - for those that we can count on; for those with unusual courage; for those that are better than us. Sometimes, we anoint those as heroes who are very like us.

Last week, we saw how both Moses and Elijah were considered by  Peter as heroes along with Jesus. Perhaps because only Peter, James and John were invited along to be a part of this spectacle, they were to be considered “heroes-in-training.” But alas, we will find that there was only one hero in the group.

For all of Moses’ wonderful humble-servant qualities, he was not perfect. He was not hero caliber. Those who are humble servants will struggle with times of feeling taken-for-granted. While they love to serve, they can also feel used. These people are easy to walk on, and it gets tiring. And so, one day, when God instructed Moses to serve once again by merely speaking a word, he instead took to swinging a stick. And it cost him passage to the Promised Land. Thankfully, it did not cost him fellowship with Jesus, and so we see him on the Mt. of Transfiguration - not a hero, but a sinner, beholding the glory of the One and Only Hero.

Elijah’s job was to be strong and clear in the face of an evil king and queen. His role required great courage since it entailed great risk. Once you risk your skin a few times, it is easy to conclude that you deserve a few perks from God. It is easy to feel important in God’s plan, essential, indispensable. It seems that Elijah felt that he was more zealous for God than God was zealous for Elijah. And he had to be put in his place. He had to be removed from the scene.

But I’m glad that Elijah is included in the scene in Mark 9, not because he is a hero, but because the One and Only Hero, Jesus, forgives sinners, just as he did Moses, and Elijah, and Peter, and me.

Is your Soul a Muscle?

I’ve heard there are different kinds of muscle, and different types have different characteristics. Skeletal muscles can be built up, and they can regenerate. So if we have an injury or a surgery, muscles that have been cut or damaged can often be restored to their former condition. Or, if you want to build muscle, you can engage in a weight training program in which muscle tissue is ‘torn,’ but then mends and heals larger and/or stronger. 

If the soul is this kind of muscle, then it might seem as though God will ‘grow’ our souls through difficulty and adversity. The tearing of our souls will result in a larger and stronger faith. And if that is the case, then we can give thanks for trials - something Scripture tells us explicitly that we should do.

On the other hand, what if our souls are more like heart muscle? My understanding is that this particular muscle is damaged in a heart attack, and that the remnants of this heart damage are detected in the bloodstream. But the heart muscle does not degenerate. It does not come back larger and stronger. What you lose in a heart attack is lost for life.

If the soul is this kind of muscle, then our study of Mark 8:34-38 this past Sunday makes a lot of sense. Our ‘deals with the devil’ result in lost ground, lost opportunities, lost capacities. 

Now, our souls are not muscles at all. They are immaterial and spiritual. And yet, how will we care for these souls of ours, in which our faith finds its space to exercise and work? To at least borrow from the images above, we submit to God in love and trust, even in times of unpleasantness; and we flee from sin and the devil, knowing that he is the enemy of our souls.