Losing your life to Find Your Life
Have you ever read a book that changed your life? Sunday when I asked that in church, most people said “Yes, the bible.” Any other book change your life? Several books have turned my life completely around. One of them is a book by the Catholic Monk, James Finley. He was a student of Thomas Merton, the famous Trappist Monk. When I was twenty-one years old I read a little book by Finley called, Merton’s Palace of Nowhere. I admit, the title did not grab me. But the subtitle did: Discovering God through a Discovery of Your True Self. In fact, I have read this small book numerous times, and have recommended it to many, because for me it zeroed right in on the message of last Sunday’s gospel.
This last Sunday churches around the world read the gospel where Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, whoever of you wishes to save your life will lose it, but whoever loses your life for the sake of the gospel will find it.”
What? What is Jesus saying? This paradox is at the heart of this life of faith. Finley’s book helped me to understand what Jesus was saying. Finley suggests we think of it as I printed it in the title of this blog: losing our life – with a lower case “l” in order to find our Life – with a capital “L.”
In other words, most of us live too small. We go about our daily lives worrying what we will have for lunch or the phone calls we need to make. How seldom do we live that bigger Life which God is calling us to live each and every day? Do we have the courage to truly live our lives as Spiritual Adventure? To follow God’s lead in big and small ways every moment, every day?
This past weekend was also Labor Day weekend. eighteen years ago I began a tradition at our church, which you are welcome to try at your community of faith. Every Labor Day weekend we have members of our community of faith speak about what they do for their life work, their sense of vocation or calling to the work that they do, the gifts God has blessed them with to do what they do, and how they see God in the midst of all this.
What about you? If you see what you do every day in this way, it will never feel like work again! You will begin to live your Life as Spiritual Adventure.
But you need to know that when Jesus talks about living this way he also talks about the cross. In terms of his own life, or fulfilling his own calling, he lets his disciples know that for him this will mean suffering and death. Then he tells his disciples, “If you really want to be my disciple, you must take up your cross, and follow me.” THEN he adds, “For whoever of you wants to save your life will lose it, but whoever of you loses your life for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel (literally the Good News or Good Message) will save your Life.” So…Jesus makes no bones abut it. This way of life will not be easy. In fact it will involve suffering.
The more I study the various faith traditions of this world, I see that every single one of them tells us that there are two great universal experiences we all go through in this life: suffering and love.
To live our Lives as Spiritual Adventure is not always easy. We will suffer. Sunday I shared the story of my own calling. When I was just fifteen years old I felt called to be a pastor. My mother was so excited about this that she told me to have our Vicar (seminarian studying to be a pastor) over for dinner to tell him the good news. After dinner, I got up the nerve and told him with great excitement that I had experienced God calling me to be a pastor.
He laughed at me. He laughed so hard that he pounded the arms of the chair in which he sat, and then, still pounding to emphasize each word, proclaimed: “You? A pastor? You can NEVER be a pastor! You…are a girl!”
At this point my quiet, stoic Swedish father, the father of four daughters, spoke: “Vicar, if God is calling my daughter to be a pastor, then, by God, she will be a pastor.” Then my father added, “Now I will show you to the door.” That was my father’s polite way of kicking the guy out of the house!
My father was right. Since God was calling me, by God, I have become a pastor. But it was not without my share of suffering. Nevertheless, it has been one amazing, difficult, challenging, joyful, intense, glorious Spiritual Adventure.
So…what about you? What is the Life God is calling you to live? And what is keeping you from that? One of the speakers at our church, an amazing woman whose own journey has included great suffering, but also abundant Life, said that she has a huge poster up in her house which she sees every time she walks in her door. It is a quote by the writer E. M. Forrester, which says, “Are you willing to let go of the life (with a lower case “l”) which you planned, in order to live the Life (with a capital “L”) which is waiting for you?”
May you see God in all you encounter,
and may you reflect God to all thou encounter,
Pastor Linda Forsberg, Copyright September 2, 2014