Some preachers may choose to work with this Sunday as Reformation Sunday and can do an internet search for working with those texts or search this site for such material. The material below, however, fits perfectly with the dynamics of Reformers searching for a new way, as well, even though the regular texts are used.
The book begins with a famine. Then the camera moves in to focus on one family affected by it. The husband and father dies. Still, the two sons marry, and their mother is looked after. That lasts ten years, then both sons die and three women are left alone in the enduring famine. They hear of a land where they may find food. The mother-in-law sends her two daughters-in-law back home to their own mothers where they will be safe. She blesses them on their way. But the two younger women teach her that even in a famine they have a choice. They don’t have to go home. One does. One doesn’t. Perhaps, then, a first question to answer when you need to find a way is “In this time when I’m not sure I can find a way, who do I want to be with?”
It’s hard to talk about a new thing when the symbols and practices and vocabulary you are working with are already fulfilled in meaning and lack nothing in religious purpose. But here we are, nonetheless. It’s High Priests, the Holy Place, blood and sacrifice held out in the hope readers will see Jesus in an existing religious and theological understanding for a mere nanosecond before his purpose recasts the scope of purification to something almost beyond imagining. Perhaps, then, a second question to answer when you need to find a way is, “How did we find a way before, and where’s a door we haven’t opened yet?”
This story starts with a group of people who have different points of view on things that matter.
Into that mix a question drops about what matters most. There is no hesitation in Jesus’s response. It’s about who God is, and what God wants from us. To remember who God is, and that what God wants is our love is like finding true north on a compass. Yes, we have opened this door before, but looking for a new door we haven’t opened made us need the discerning tool of this more ancient wisdom. Perhaps, then, a third question to answer when you need to find a way is, “Does this way call forth the love of my heart, mind, soul and strength so that I am loving God if I go this way?”
Whether we are at a crossroads, backed into a corner or up against a wall, how can we find a way?
In these passages there are clues about how we do that. Ruth tells us that even when we are the least important people in a system, we may still be able to choose our companions in the search to find the way—and those relationships will sustain us. Hebrews holds up an ancient way to reconnect with God and tells us when we approach that door with Jesus it can become another door altogether that we didn’t see before. And Mark provides the acid test for the spiritual integrity of any way we consider—does it bear witness to a God I can love with all my heart, all my mind, all my soul, all my strength, and inspire that love in others?
When we cannot find a way, here are three questions to take with us as we search.
Diane Strickland is in her 33rd year as an ordained minister now serving in The United Church of Canada as retired clergy. She is a Certified Community and Workplace Traumatologist, Compassion Fatigue Specialist-Therapist, and Critical Incident Responder, author and creator of trauma informed resources.
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