Sunday, March 13, 2005

Learning How to Die?

"It's learning how to die..."

More on the interview with Eugene Peterson. Excerpts below:

I don't want to suggest that those of us who are following Jesus don't have any fun, that there's no joy, no exuberance, no ecstasy. They're just not what the consumer thinks they are. When we advertise the gospel in terms of the world's values, we lie to people. We lie to them, because this is a new life. It involves following Jesus. It involves the Cross. It involves death, an acceptable sacrifice. We give up our lives.

The Gospel of Mark is so graphic this way. The first half of the Gospel is Jesus showing people how to live. He's healing everybody. Then right in the middle, he shifts. He starts showing people how to die: "Now that you've got a life, I'm going to show you how to give it up." That's the whole spiritual life. It's learning how to die. And as you learn how to die, you start losing all your illusions, and you start being capable now of true intimacy and love. It involves a kind of learned passivity, so that our primary mode of relationship is receiving, submitting, instead of giving and getting and doing. We don't do that very well. We're trained to be assertive, to get, to apply, or to consume and to perform.

Its learning how to die. Oh my. As I have passed my mid-40s, and have two parents now in their mid-80s, as well as a dear friend battling cancer, I tend to think about the fleeting nature of life more than I used to. So, it really is about learning to die, isn't it? When one accepts Jesus as Lord, there is a real sense of submitting control of life to Another, a letting go (dying to self). As one becomes a disciple, there are new learned behaviors, and letting God have more of the "bad parts" of ourselves (in my case anger and selfishness); another form of dying. Death and dying found in the midst of new life in Christ.

Giving up our lives. Now won't that make a slick "come to church" brochure. "Come to the First Church of Happy Valley (where all the Happy, Handsome, Well Dressed, Normal, Disease Free, Clean and Thrifty People Come!) and learn how to....DIE!? But then, that is what Jesus is calling us to, in many ways, is it not? Much to think about here, in the thoughts of Eugene. Perhaps we can reason together....

Final thought. Go out today, and buy this book. This is the meatier text behind the interview with Eugene Peterson, and will give us all plenty to think about for months to come! I bought my copy today.

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