Downward Mobility

Friday, March 30, 2012 — Week of 5 Lent

Innocent of Alaska, Bishop, 1879

Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 957)

Psalms (morning) 95* & 22 // 141, 143:1-11(12) (evening)

Exodus 9:13-35

2 Corinthians 4:1-12

Mark 10:32-45

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Jesus’ life has a pattern of downward mobility. And Paul describes his vocation in complementary terms. Reversing the usual assumptions of what is the good life, the successful and blessed life, Jesus and Paul find meaning, peace and divine presence in this other way of being. And both of them inaugurated movements and influences that impact the world two millennia later.

The gospel reading today begins with Jesus on the road, his face set toward Jerusalem. His followers recognize the inevitability of threat and conflict ahead. They are afraid, Mark says. James and John are still living in the old paradigm. They ask to sit at Jesus’ side in his glory. They don’t understand, so he teaches. “Whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.” Now that’s extreme downward mobility.

Yet listen to the power and freedom this new way creates when someone “gets it.” Paul understands. He says that God’s light shines in his heart. It is “the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” It’s all about God. Everything! That realization makes him bulletproof. He is totally hopeful, no matter what. Read again how he describes his life, but don’t let a whisper of whining mar his words. This is a hymn of joy. This is a declaration of triumph and peace. This is an emancipation proclamation:

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.” (2 Cor. 4:8-11)

Can you see the joyful wonder in Paul’s eyes as he dictates these words? He’s smiling ear to ear. It’s one of those smiles that communicates something like “can you believe the luck?! Isn’t God something? Things are screwed up all around me, but everything’s fine. I’m just fine. God’s working everything out. I don’t have to worry about anything. I’ve died to worry! Look! Out of this stuff, God is creating everything new! Amazing!”

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