Mark 8:11-13: Our Suspicion That the Christ Who Died Is Not Enough
11 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” 13 And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side.
I sometimes look at my Ordinary Life of Regular Worship as a paltry thing. I have three ways that my trust in Christ has been deepened and expressed in this broken, ordinary world: the Daily Office, Contemplative Prayer, and Hospitality. They are the tools of my squabbling, shambling holiness, the tools eventually worn smooth with use, what I make a day with and how I live my day with. They are the company I kept, by them I have learned the discipline of hope, they have branded me with hope, led me in hope. They have inscribed hope into arms and legs that lead me out of bed and into the world to listen and to pray. Hope is embedded in habits that lead us out of ourselves and into the world.
These tools, these habits, I believe, have done something drastic. They have not solved crises, or created solutions to life’s agonies and inconsistencies.
But they have whittled something into my heart. I believe our habits carve understandings into the heart. And these habits have carved into my heart a little foothold of quiet, patient understanding. A little foothold in the storm of world and self.
This quiet has been dearly purchased, vigilantly guarded.
I often, in the midst of life’s ups and downs, in the intensity and frailty of life in the street, find that it is possible for me to be quiet.
That I am able to depend on Christ by being quiet.
I have not experienced that quiet as the absence of noise, but as a hard kernel of patient understanding. That understanding, that quiet, seems to be who I am. I seem to have become that hard kernel of patient, quiet, understanding.
That quiet, patient understanding has been, over these last few years in the wilderness, the thing most dearly bought, and vigilantly guarded. That quiet patient understanding has been my deliverance from the compulsions that have ruled my life. That quiet patient understanding has been my deliverance from my dependence on myself. A quiet, patient understanding that has been inscribed in me by the Daily Office, Contemplative Prayer, and a resilient insistence on Hospitality. These three things, I hope, not trophies of obedience to Christ, but expression of a newly wounded, newly beginning dependence on Christ. How Christ makes a life with us.
But often these things seem so paltry. Often, on days like today, they do not seem like enough. Often, I look at these few paltry things: the hearing of His Word (Daily Office), prayer in His Spirit (contemplative prayer), and the offer of myself (Hospitality) and think “Really?” This is all you’ve given us?
In a world as sick and broken and defeated and falling to pieces as this and this, this is what we’ve been given? This is our holding pattern? This is how we live in the midst of such pain and frailty and disaster? We hear? We pray? We offer?
Maybe we are like the pharisees, seeking signs and wonders. I want to see God move, I want him to help me control and conquer and fix and make the world right. I want to fix the world, not keep it company.
I want to fix the world, not just keep it company.
But the Lord has only asked me to keep the world company, to be the best company I can be while he fixes the world in His time and in His way. To simply behold and bear witness to the Christ who died, the Christ who’s Risen (which is all my paltry little rule of life is, a way to behold and bear witness). To behold and bear witness as the world in all its brokenness and frailty is overcome by His Death and Resurrection and not by me.
Maybe, at heart of all of it, is the suspicion that the Christ who Died is not enough. And so I seek signs and wonders. It is not enough that he gave himself over to us. It isn’t enough, I sometimes think, that he gave himself to us, not enough that he offered himself to us.
Perhaps I’m saying sometimes it doesn’t feel like Mercy is enough. Even though, as I type now, it is with a pang of recognition that it is enough. That is more than enough. That it is an abundance. That there are some places only Mercy goes, strongholds only Mercy breaks, things only Mercy knows.
And Mercy’s strange gift, to rob us of our dependence on ourselves by revealing our need of Mercy. To leave us bereft of such precious things as fixing, controlling, intervening. To leave us bereft of all but hearing, bereft of all but prayer, bereft of all but offering. So Mercy may conquer, Mercy may heal, Mercy may reconcile.