Taking hold of eternal life

Daily Office Readings for March 24, 2013 (Palm Sunday):

Zech. 9:9-12** or Zech. 12:9-11,13:1,7-9***

Psalm 24, 29; (Morning)

Psalm 103 (Evening)

1 Tim. 6:12-16**

Matt. 21:12-17***

** (intended for use in the morning)

***(intended for use in the evening)

1 Tim. 6:12-16: Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will bring about at the right time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

I don’t normally divulge my more unusual dreams in a public sphere, but our Epistle’s words today about “taking hold of the eternal life” reminded me of a dream I had a few weeks ago. (be sure and put your coffee down and have no liquids in your mouth over what I’m about to tell you.)

I dreamed I was in a tattoo parlor, contemplating my next tattoo. Now, in real life, I have two small tattoos on my left ankle, and a larger 1/2 sleeve one on my right shoulder. Evidently I was cogitating over what to put on the left one. In my dream, the tattoo artist was none other than retired Bishop Gene Robinson, and he was trying to coerce me into a full sleeve one instead of another 1/2 sleeve one. In this dream, he told me, “Maria, you are a full sleeve kind of person who’s spent most of her adult days living a 1/2 sleeve kind of life.”

You know, at the time 1 Timothy was written, Christianity was a full sleeve kind of proposition. It meant risking running afoul of the authorities. It meant putting one’s self out in the open at great peril to themselves–to risk rejection, persecution, and even the possibility of losing one’s life. People felt compelled to worship in secret in some places because of that fear. Just as many of us chose to have a 1/2 sleeve tattoo, so we would not appear to be socially undesirable in some circles while wearing short sleeves, many of the early Christians hoped to “look normal” and hoped that their new found faith did not show under their clothes. They lived their own version of a “1/2 sleeve kind of life.” Some of it, frankly, was to avoid torture and death. Some of it was fear of losing business connections. Some of it was just plain old “What will the neighbors think?” Yet, for many of them, there simply became a time or a place where to keep it under a sleeve was just too much, and they began to be more open about their faith and put themselves at risk. They simply could not hide that “unapproachable light” inside themselves any longer. To do so would have been to be complicit.

Taking hold of the eternal life, in some ways, is like taking a tiger by the tail. None of us have any way of knowing how we will be changed by living more fully in Christ. There will be a place everyone is going to see the ink peeking out from under our shirt cuff. Although there are places in the world where that still has a risk of death, the risk in the more developed world is that we will seem quite out of step with the world’s idea of success and conformity. We could lose friends and estrange relatives.

Yet, we also see the good that comes from this decision. We see people fed, clothed, and visited. We see ourselves being changed into a more holy version of ourselves. We see hope where previously, we saw a vast nothing–or even despair. We begin to see that Jesus thought it was worth the risk, so we can take the risk.

The truth is, all of us cover something under our sleeve, that is yearning to be exposed–something composed of that pure unapproachable light—something is crying inside each of us to be born, and be unleashed upon the brokenness of the world. Holy week is the perfect time in our prayer life to have a conversation with God about that yearning, and a good time to ask for direction.

What incarnational bit or piece is in inside of you, that is just itching to be part of a full sleeve kind of life?

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

Past Posts