When worlds collide
Mark 10: 35-45
C.S. Lewis was raised in a religious family that attended the Church of Ireland. He became an atheist at age 15. He eventually
returned to Christianity, having been influenced by arguments with his Oxford colleague and friend J. R. R. Tolkien of the “Lord of the Rings “ fame and wrote this of his his last fight before his acceptance of Christ:
You must picture me alone in (my) room, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.
Later he became a great endorser of the Christian faith, of which in one of his books he wrote a fictional account about several people from our fallen world, meet those from another who had not fallen to their temptation in the garden. Parallel universes the same, but unparalleled in outcomes that gave neither understanding of the other.
Worlds colliding that we know in our inner self like that as in a song titled “The Pilgrim” as written by Kris Kristofferson where he goes:
“He’s a poet and he’s a picker, he’s a prophet, he’s a pusher
He’s a pilgrim and a preacher and a problem when he’s stoned
He’s a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction
(and) Takin’ every wrong direction on his lonely way back home.”
A song that talks to me, as do the lyrics from another penned by him:
“(There was a man) from Atlanta, Georgia
By the name of martin Luther king
He shook the land like rolling thunder
and made the bells of freedom ring today.
With a dream of beauty that they could not burn away
Just another holy man who dared to be a friend
my god, they killed him!
The only son of God almighty
The holy one called Jesus Christ
Healed the lame and fed the hungry
And for his love they took his life away
On the road to glory where the story never ends
Just the holy son of man we’ll never understand
My god, they killed him!”
Two worlds colliding. The sin of man separated from the holiness of God that could only be restored by the good and not the bad. A separation restored not by the transgressor, but by the innocent.
Two worlds that collided in the man of Jesus Christ who did not reconcile with demands, imprisonment or powers of destruction or from afar, but came to the fight not with fists clenched but hands open. Came not to punish, but to be punished. Came not to persecute, but to be persecuted.
The Son of God who came to earth via the womb of a young girl, born in a stable, poor, in danger, a refugee from powerful and wicked rulers. Such an upside down way for the almighty and everlasting God, who has armies of angels at hand and the power of the universe at his fingertips, to enter the world.
His life is simple – a wandering teacher, mixing with the lowliest and poorest, the diseased and the outcast, speaking a simple message of love for God and one another and living out that message in everything he did – so unlike the Son of God, the Messiah that had been expected by the people of God. No, surely this back to front wandering rabbi can’t be the Messiah.
His death on a Roman cross – so cruel, so humiliating, so shameful, so painful and yet he was so innocent. This was such a difficult thing to understand even for those who were the closest to him. The Messiah on a cross – that is so wrong.
And then there are all those strange sayings of Jesus.
“The greatest one among you must be your servant. Whoever makes himself great will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be made great” (Matt 23:11-12).
“Those who want to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and the gospel will save it” (Matt 8:35).
“If anyone of you wants to be great, you must be the servant of the rest; and if anyone wants to be first, you must be the slave of all” (Mark 10:43-44).
Jesus is back to front and upside down and in so highlights that the ways of the Kingdom of God are not the same as that of the rest of the world. Jesus defines greatness in such a different way – he uses words like love, humility, service, kindness, meekness, mercy, servants, slave, losing one’s life, and says that anyone who has these attributes is considered great in God’s Kingdom.
Because of the love of Christ for us and the love of Christ reflected in us: attitudes, behaviours and values are changed. What is great in God’s kingdom are often different to what is considered great in the world.
It might be considered great in the world to put down those who want to achieve, or ridicule people who are different,
but greatness in God’s Kingdom is to show kindness and offer help and encourage them to get ahead.
It might be considered great in the world to unkindly criticise others and gossip about them but in God’s Kingdom greatness means to defend others, speak well of others and be supportive.
It might be considered great in the world to ignore the poor and look after our own needs first, avoid the pleas of others for help even though we could well afford to give assistance but in God’s Kingdom greatness means to give food to the poor, a cup of water to the thirsty, shelter to the homeless, visit the sick and clothe the naked (see Matt 25:31-46).
When Jesus spoke of what makes a person great in the God’s eyes he spoke of being a servant, a slave even, and connected the task of the disciple to the service he offered to all humanity which came at a price. He said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served; he came to serve and to give his life to redeem many people”.
Following the upside down ways of Jesus is not easy. They are challenging. They will make us rethink our values and the ways our culture and society influence our thinking and behaviour. Jesus’ upside down ways will make us feel guilty as we realise how we have fallen into going down the easy path, followed popular trends, done the “in thing” rather than taken the harder path of humility and service to others.
Yet it’s just when we are being hard on ourselves for getting it all wrong when God’s upside down love beams down on us. We call it grace. We fail. We think greatness is all about us. We ignore the people God gives us to serve. We let God down and what does God do? He loves us. He doesn’t seek revenge, an eye for an eye, but loves us, forgives us and embraces us as his children for whom Jesus has died.
And we thank God for his grace that turns everything upside down!
His grace known by a man named Martin Luther King which allowed him to rise up and reconcile the races at the cost of his life. The grace that allows a devoted and outspoken atheist to say “I was wrong” and devote his time left announcing it so.
The grace that allows his people, that though walking contradictions say yes, but while this may be so, I know a man who is not.
The grace that allows his people that though often taking many wrong directions on their way home say yes, but while this be so, I know a man who did not.
The grace of God given to His people through Jesus Christ. His grace that allows the poor to rise up and serve the rich and his grace that allows the rich to drop on bended knee and serve the poor.
The grace you have received in Jesus Christ to know His forgiveness that sees not the reflection of a fallen sinner in the mirror, but that of that one that has been forgiven and restored.
Forgiven and restored not to hide in the shadows and lurk in the darkness of this world, but forgiven and restored to walk in the light of Christ. To walk in the light of Christ, though we be troubled, broken and sore. Though our burden may be great and seem to overwhelm, rise not in our own strength, but in that of our Saviour Jesus Christ and know our Lords words to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane for ourselves and trust in them for where He has placed us: That though we may ask “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me”, we now in the love and strength of a man that while we once we knew Him not, He has taken us to the mountain top, that now in view of the promised land we too can join Him and ask, “Yet not my will, but yours be done.” Amen.