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DISCIPLES BEHAVING BADLY
October 17, 2003
 
Friday's eMo is always a meditation on the lectionary texts for the upcoming Sunday. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution. No further permission is necessary.

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Another disciples-acting-childishly story this week. Really childishly: they come up to Jesus and ask if He will grant a request -- before they tell him what they want! I used to try that with my mother. My children used to try it with me, and my grandchildren try it with their mother. All kids try it. To my knowledge, it has never worked for any child in the history of the world.

And it doesn't work for James and John, either. In response, Jesus says exactly what my mom used to say: "Well, tell me what you want, and then we'll see." And what they want is pretty childish, too: "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory." It sounds like they're imagining a fairly worldly kind of glory, a good job high up in the Jesus administration, when He takes over. And why not, they must have thought, when they worked so hard on the campaign?

We want the glory at the end without having to make the journey. We try not to think about the cost of the glory we desire, but there is always a cost. It seems to take us a long time to grow out of this.

Secular wisdom says it best: there is simply no such thing as a free lunch. No matter what they tell you. The grace of God is free, and accepting it assures a holy life and eternal life with Christ. But accepting grace is something we have to do every day, several times a day, and a holy life here on the earth is far from being a life without cost. Sometimes the cost is high. For some, the cost has been their very lives -- James and John were two of these. It is the free grace of God that makes us able to take a deep breath and walk out into it. Grace gives us a courage we wouldn't have on our own, gives us the wit to figure out a way around the obstacles that appear in the path, but it doesn't remove the obstacles. Life is a series of obstacles: surmount one and there's another just ahead. Want God's help and comfort on the way, or would you rather do it all alone? Up to you.

Actually, James and John got their wish. They became important figures in the world of the early Church. Really important. Remembered today, still. Churches named after them all over the world. And they paid a heavy price for remaining faithful, the same price Jesus paid. Over time, they learned what their lives would really cost. Over time, they grew in faith and courage enough so that they could pay the price.

The Primates assembled in England issued a statement yesterday, summarizing the deliberations and conclusions of their conference about how to respond to significant local differences among churches in the Anglican Communion in responding to the varieties of human sexuality. Careful readers of the brief document will see at once that it is carefully worded to give the Church time to let things settle a bit and proceed deliberately. Nobody thinks, though, that whatever happens will be without a heavy cost.

And so we come back to grace. Life together is hard. It can be supported only by the grace of God, that breeze of forbearance and forgiveness, that gift of willingness to listen and understand, that energetic search for peace with integrity, that which shows us glimpses of the goodness of God right here, among human beings.

Can I be your best friend, Jesus? Can I be with you always?

Yes, you can. But I'm going through some hard places. Really hard. Come on, I'll hold your hand.

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In an eMo several days ago, you were enticed to donate food to St. Clement's Food Pantry in New York. I seem to have given you the wrong zip code, though! St. Clement's is at 423 West 46th Street, New York, NY 10036. Thanks to Citizen Watty Strouss, one of the best of all proofreaders, for pointing this out.
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