Thursday, April 25, 2013

Fully Human

“Then he said to them, ‘The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.’” – Mark 2:27

We call Jesus many things – the Christ, the Son of God, Lord and Savior. But in Mark, the oldest of the gospels, these aren’t the titles Jesus wants us to hear. Over and again, he refers to himself as the Son of Man. Thrown in with those other titles, we take the enigmatic “Son of Man” to be a high title. But “Son of Man” is not a title like the others. A “son of man” as opposed to a “son of god” is another way of saying “a person,” or “a human one” or even “the human being,” as people have translated it.

To hear Jesus refer to himself as “the human being” for an entire gospel is refreshing to me. So much of the message of salvation I hear preached has a singular focus: your fate in the afterlife. And please don’t misunderstand, I am not saying the message of salvation Jesus preached has nothing to do with eternity; but I am saying it has at least as much to do with life on this side of the grave. Jesus did not simply come to sell us fire insurance for when we die; he came to teach us what it means to be alive. In Jesus, our concepts of human and divine merge into one. He is both human and divine. And I think he would say the same thing applies to all of us, each a son of man, and each a child of God.

Jesus took living seriously. He ate and drank, he healed, he tore down social barriers, he told stories, he forgave, he taught, he loved, he subverted, he prayed, he did grand gestures, he gave thanks, he spent serious time with friends, he suffered, he gave life. And he tells us how we live matters. In his story of separating those to be rewarded and those who are cast out, those who have missed out ask, “When did we see you and do nothing?” and he tells them, “Whatever you did to the least of these, so you did to me.” This is a serious call for us to tend to those hurting in the world, but it is also a serious wakeup call to us to pay attention and start living.

Paula D'Arcy puts it wonderfully, “God comes to you disguised as your life.” My own experience has taught me this as well. In the times that I am alive, really alive and not on auto-pilot, God is there. If you are there with a friend in need, surely you have sensed it to. When you are laughing with friends, fully present, you see life brighter. If you have ever fallen in love or had a child, the joy there is nothing if not holy. If you have ever suffered or been fully present to someone who has, those dark times can be sacred space if you have the courage to walk through them. When you stop, really stop, and give thanks, you see it – a life and world shot-through with the glory of God and the suffering of God both just waiting to be attended to by you.

So we have choices every day. The first is to decide that God does come disguised as our lives, and the second is to live and live with that in mind. And by living, I think I mean something positive and negative. Positively, I think I mean loving on people & loving life as fully and as often as we can. Maybe that means - sincerely paying attention to people around us, whether it’s a spouse, a customer, the girl bagging groceries, or an elderly relative or person from church; setting aside time to pray, whether that’s with your bible and a verbal prayer or whether that’s on a bike ride with a thankful state of mind; being deliberate about having a positive attitude about this amazing God-disguised life no matter what is being thrown at us; reaching out to people who are hurting (this is serious living) and asking how they are doing and letting them know you are praying for them (it’s that easy & that hard); making quality time much more often for the important people in our lives; planning and crossing some things off the bucket list and doing generally things that make us happy; finding places in our communities to pay forward all the wonderful time and influence people invested in us along the way; and expressing gratitude to God and others often for everything they do for us.
Negatively, I think I mean turn off whatever is distracting us from doing the positive things: turning off the cell phone (don’t let it buzz or beep while you are trying to live or let it lure you into idly reading it instead of smiling and talking to the person next to you); turning off the computer and television as well when you’ve got somebody you could be talking too; turning off negative influences and negative people who darken your view of this God-disguised life; not letting fear of failure, awkwardness, or not knowing what to do or say stop you from trying something or saying something to someone or generally living your God-disguised life; and not waiting until tomorrow to do what there is time to do today.
Here is our one promised shot. And the Human One wants us to experience being human as much as he did. In so doing, both our faith & our experience teach us that we’ll meet God again and again and again disguised in our lives. And the more we practice being fully human, the more we’ll pick up on the disguise.
“The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” - Saint Irenaeus