Growing up, I tried to be a good Christian so that I could squeak by in life unscathed by pain and sorrow. The formula went something like this: Be good, follow the rules, go to church, say your prayers, and God will reward you with a happy life. I pictured God as a stern parent waiting to pounce on my imperfections. I was living like a parishioner of Israel taking my animal sacrifices to the high priest in hopes that God would forgive my peccadilloes and grant me an abundant harvest.
Then along comes Jesus, who changes everything! We no longer have to cower in the dark, fearing our own shadows, afraid to breathe. In a mysterious way, Jesus’ death and resurrection frees us from the bonds of fear. The gospel truth is that no one is keeping a tally of our sins or holding us hostage to our shame. On the contrary, Christ frees us to come out of the shadows and live into our fullness.
We are invited to let go of all of our baggage—the regrets, the “shoulds and oughts,” and our relentless pursuit of perfection. Christ reveals to us an image of God as loving parent who delights in us and desires relationship. Through Christ, God says, “Enough already, come out and play. Live large, take risks, let your God-image shine in the world!”
What if we actually lived as if these words were true? What holds you back from living large? Put all that in a bag and imagine giving it to Jesus. Come into an awareness of your body. What does it feel like to be free from your baggage? Come into an awareness of your emotions, and allow them to speak to you.
Loving God, help me to let go and trust in your love. Amen.
Ruth and Psalm 146 share a thematic connection. Ruth is a foreigner who decides to follow the God of the Israelites, and the psalmist praises God for being the trustworthy God who cares about the poor, the oppressed, and the foreigner. In Ruth, Boaz will demonstrate this kind of care for her. The New Testament readings focus on sacrifice. Hebrews teaches us that Christ was both the greatest high priest and the eternal sacrifice. A scribe in Mark receives praise from Jesus, for he understands that the sacrificial system was less weighty than the act of loving one’s neighbor. Ruth and this scribe are examples of those, named and anonymous, who have come before us in the faith. We celebrate them on All Saints Day.
• Read Ruth 1:1-18. When have you left the familiar behind to set out into the unknown? Where did you experience God’s presence and help?
• Read Psalm 146. When you have found yourself in despair about the world, where have you witnessed God’s work that brings you hope?
• Read Hebrews 9:11-14. How willing are you to release your bag of sins and shortcomings to Jesus?
• Read Mark 12:28-34. In what ways do you understand yourself as a spiritual being having a human experience? What does that mean to you?
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