October 14, 2018
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer. Amen.
When I was pregnant with our first child, the phrase I heard over and over again – and it was always said with a certain menacing-air about it – was, “Once this baby is born, your life is really going to change.” A few people would try to smooth out the ruffle they created with that statement, with a quick follow-up - - “You know, change, in a good way.” But there was a definite sense that, according to those who had already experienced parenthood, we were supposed to squeeze every ounce of freedom left in our lives into that short 9-month window of pregnancy. To hear others talk about it, parenthood would be at least 18-years of worry, hard work, and confinement.
So Bunker and I did our best to live it up, as much as two 20-somethings, just starting out in life together, possibly could. Not only would we go out to eat, but we would linger over our after-dinner coffee. We stayed up to watch The Late Show or the entirety of a Rangers hockey game in overtime, knowing that we could sleep past 7am. We were able to leave the house on a dime, and when we traveled – and we traveled light. Our stereo could be turned up as loud as we wanted, and the house and the car (which we shared) were generally always clean. Not a cheerio in sight. There were no plastic toys. No bulky bags. We were very much in control.
And then on June 9th, this 8lb. 6oz. bouncing baby boy, who we named Ryan, came into our lives. Just as everyone predicted, life really changed. The 24-hr clock that used to rule our sleep-wake cycle had no hold on our lives anymore. My sleep schedule made no sense. I slept when the baby did, and when the baby was awake, I was awake. My moods were no longer my own, hijacked by this baby. When he was fussy. I was fussy. When he giggled with delight, I giggled with delight. When he raged . . . well, I tried to be the adult . . . but sometimes, even that didn’t go as I hoped. I had to be ready to leave a carefully-filled, coupon-matched grocery cart behind because of a toddler’s raging temper tantrum. We found ourselves at live performances of the Wiggles and Barney the dinosaur, instead of at Bruce Springsteen concerts or Giants games.
Yes, indeed, our lives had really changed, just as people said they would, and what changed was that we – the adults – were no longer in control.
I fought that loss of control. It didn’t come easy for me to recognize that THAT was the change which people were talking about, and it was even harder for me to give in to it, and accept it. It’s that loss of control, and the grief which comes from that loss, that connects me – and perhaps you -- to the man in today’s Gospel reading from Mark. He comes to Jesus, earnestly and humbly, a pious and good man. But – giving credence to the wisdom, ‘never ask a question that you don’t really want to know the answer to’ -- he asked Jesus what it would take for him to inherit – perhaps to inhabit (?!) – eternal life? To his dismay, Jesus tells him that his life really needs to change. And by change, Jesus means the man must release the things he seeks to control. Sure, he keeps the Commandments, the man tells Jesus; but the Commandments he keeps are those which are oriented toward his neighbor. The Commandments he doesn’t list – and presumably doesn’t keep -- are the ones which put God first; the Commandments which orient ourselves with God as the focal point, the Commandments which place God at the center of our lives. Of course, as the Gospel spells it out, this particular man isn’t willing to reorient himself, and so he goes off grieving. (Though, importantly, not unloved!)
Though some choose to reject Jesus’ invitations – which, I believe, truly reflects God’s gift of freedom for us - throughout the Gospels, Jesus’ ministry is a ministry of invitation.
He invites tax collectors to dinner.
He invites the poor to feast at a banquet.
He invites those who are weary to rest.
He invites the lost to come home.
He invites everyone who will listen to follow him.
He invites Lazarus to come forth from the grave.
Jesus continues to offer these invitations, still today. To each one of us.
In just a few minutes Abby and Todd, and Godparents Sara and Ben will accept Christ’s invitation for transformation on behalf of baby John. But God’s invitation is offered to all of us – again and again. These invitations have one thing in common, and that is the absolute orientation of our lives around Christ. Accepting that invitation means that our lives are really going to change. And just as some people told me about the change coming with parenthood, with confidence, I mean that our lives will change - but in a good way.
Because as it turns out with parenthood, I didn’t have to squeeze all of my freedom into the 9 months before my kids were born. The truth is, it doesn’t matter if I’m at Springsteen concert or at Barney Live. It doesn’t matter if I can stay up late and sleep in, in the morning. It doesn’t matter if my house is actually clean. Having our children changed our lives completely, but rather than shutting them down, they opened up an indescribable freedom for me to experience the world through a different lens, to have the will and courage to walk through places of darkness and fear, and to have the opportunity to nurture love – which is so desperately needed - in this world.
The same is true when we accept Jesus’ invitation to change. It’s not a life of restriction, confinement, or scarcity. It is a gift of transformation, of breaking down walls and barriers to freedom, and experiencing love in new ways. All of it, the gift of letting everything go – including fear and resentment - and centering our world on Christ.
Jesus sees us right now and loves us. [Yes, not just baby John – but all of us, in this very moment.] And we are invited to follow him, again and again and again, to experience, to inherit, to inhabit eternal life.
The good news is that, yes, everything IS going to change. We will know freedom in a new way. Love in a new way. Peace, in an incredibly new way. And that’s change, in a good way! Amen.