Taking risks, trusting God

Pentecost 24

Mark 12:38-44    http://bible.oremus.org

Marian Free

 In the name of God who sees all things. Amen.

 I’ve been re-watching the TV series Scrubs  – a comedy which follows four young doctors as they begin their working life. One of the things that I like about the programme is that the characters are so complex and therefore believable. In fact, most of the characters are quite seriously flawed.  For example, Elliot, one of the young doctors, is totally neurotic and incredibly insecure about her looks and about her medical skills. She constantly worries about what other people think about her. In one episode she begins going out with a nurse. The relationship begins quite well but doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. A major problem is that Elliot is trying so hard not to let Paul know how crazy she is, that she continues to put up barriers which means that the relationship remains superficial. It is only when she lets her guard down and allows Paul to see the real Elliot that they can move forward.

The sanest and most secure of the four interns is Chris Turk, known as Turk. Turk is in love with Carla who thinks she knows how everyone else should run their lives and has no hesitation in sharing her thoughts with them. On one occasion – despite Turk’s advice – she tells a senior doctor that he shouldn’t be getting back together with his ex-wife because they are no good for each other. When she is proven to be wrong, she sees herself clearly for the first time and is surprised that instead of being insightful as she has always thought, she is bossy and interfering. As a consequence she falls into despondency and tells Turk that never again will she tell anyone what to do. His response is wonderful. He says: “Yes you will, and it doesn’t matter because I love you.” It doesn’t matter because I love you.

It is not always easy to be open and honest about ourselves or to ourselves. Especially when we are young we worry what others think about us, afraid that they will not like us if they see us as we really are. We put up defensive barriers to keep people out or we act out roles in the hope that we will fool people into believing that we are clever or brave or whatever it is that we think we are not but that we should be. On the other hand we may be genuinely blind to parts of ourselves and recognising our faults can be painful process. However, as our fictional stories remind us, if we take the risk that we will be accepted and that others will continue to love us even if we are opinionated or timid, insecure or bossy, we will stop being afraid to be who we are. Our lives will be freer and fuller because we will no longer be wasting time hiding our true selves, worrying that others don’t like us or beating ourselves up because we fall short of our own expectations. What is more, when we love ourselves and allow ourselves to be loved for who we are, it is then that we can begin to be transformed into the person we would like to be.

For at least the past 1,000 years, members of the church in England have begun their worship with the following words: “Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known and from whom no secrets are hidden ..”  Week after week, year after year, we say what is perhaps the most terrifying prayer that we will ever utter. That is, every time we come to the Eucharist, the first thing that we do is to acknowledge that before God our very souls are laid bare. The secrets of our hearts, our hidden longings, our anger, disappointment, pettiness and resentment are exposed to God’s sight. There is nothing that God does not know about us and no place in which to hide.

I sometimes wonder that we can pray these words so blithely, that we don’t cringe under our pews or fall to our knees in fear. Surely few of us can bear that sort of scrutiny! And yet we are here, and once again, with heads held reasonably high, we have spoken the words which remind us that all that we are – the good, the bad and the ugly – is known to God. We are able to pray these words because for us they are not terrifying. Our faith not only allows us we have faith to see ourselves as God sees but also informs us that God loves us as we are.

These two factors – self acceptance and the knowledge of God’s unconditional love – are at the heart of the faith experience. More than that, these are the ingredients of an authentic life and an authentic faith – a life lived without falsehood and pretence and a relationship with God and with others that is utterly and sometimes, horribly real.

You might notice that Jesus’ harshest condemnation is reserved for hypocrites. In Matthew’s gospel Jesus rages and rages against the hypocrisy of the scribes and the Pharisees. “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” Jesus says over and over again. And today, Jesus criticises the scribes who are more concerned with appearance and status than they are with God. They hope that their long robes and long prayers will hide their lack of compassion and their self-interest. The have failed to understand that they can hide nothing from God and that a real relationship is an honest relationship.

God doesn’t want a relationship with our public self, a relationship that is limited by obstacles that are put up, games that are played, or falsehoods that are perpetuated. God wants a relationship with our real self – that part of us that is scarred and imperfect. God wants us to trust him that however frail, however flawed we are God’s love will never, ever be withdrawn.

We can’t fool God, so there is really no point in trying. However embarrassing, however humiliating, however nasty our real self is – that is the self that God had a hand in creating, the self that God loves and the self with which God wants to be in relationship.

Opening ourselves to another can be a terrifying and risky thing to do, but the reward is a deep and authentic relationship in which all barriers are removed and we can be our true selves. The widow trusted God with everything  she had– maybe we can trust God with everything that we are.

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One Response to “Taking risks, trusting God”

  1. MArgaret Dyball Says:

    Your words are so true. Thank you Marian for the reminder of our status before God. The older I become, the more I hope that I see myself as I am and come honestly before God for His all surrounding love and changing compassion.

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