An Inconvenient Spirituality – Br. John Braught
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Sometimes following Jesus can be inconvenient. In today’s Gospel narrative (Mark 6:30-44), we find the disciples in just this kind of position. The disciples have just returned from mission, and are reporting back to Jesus all they have done: they have proclaimed good news to the poor, they have cast out demons in his name, and they have anointed with oil and cured many who are sick. Power has gone out of them in ministry, and so the disciples are tired, and they need a break. Jesus perceives this and invites the disciples to a deserted place to rest. But Jesus’ fame has spread such that the encroaching crowd forbids it. The disciples ask Jesus to disperse the crowd so they can get on with their well-deserved rest, and so feel inconvenienced when Jesus compassionately commands them to feed the crowd with the meager provisions on hand. “What? Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” Having been with Jesus, having preached the good news themselves, having healed and ministered to others, the disciples must have known this was the right thing to do. But it’s not what they want, and frankly they don’t think it’s possible. There isn’t enough to feed all these people, they’re not up to the task, they’re tired, and they also need to eat. The whole episode is just rather inconvenient.
Much of what Jesus asks us to do can feel this way. Perhaps you’ve had the experience, where what God asks us to do, what we know in our hearts is the right thing to do, has seemed rather inconvenient. I don’t mean inconvenient simply in the sense of being untimely, or off putting, though this is often the case, but something can be inconvenient when it’s just out of reach. When what we are being asked to do is somehow just beyond us, just beyond what we think we want, just beyond what we feel capable of doing, just beyond what seems possible. It’s inconvenient. It may be that we are being asked to serve those we’d rather not (or feel unable) to serve, we may be asked to love those we find difficult to love, to forgive the unforgivable, or to let go of something we’d rather not let go of.
Yes, following Jesus can be inconvenient. In fact, following Jesus will almost always be inconvenient. For, a convenient spirituality is no spirituality at all. A convenient spirituality is no spirituality because if it is convenient it means we are simply doing what we what we want to be doing. If it is convenient it means we are simply doing what we feel able to do, or what we feel comfortable doing. If it is convenient it means we don’t have to rely on God very much.
The point at which we are inconvenienced, however, the point at which our spirituality becomes inconvenient, that is the point in which we are asked to go beyond what we think we want, to go beyond what we think we can do, to go beyond what we think is possible. The point in which we are inconvenienced is the point in which we have to rely on God. And when we have to rely on God (and if you are anything like me you only rely on God when you have to) the impossible becomes possible, and we find that we are able to do and achieve that which we never could do or achieve on our own power, because we couldn’t. We have to have God’s help. We can rely on it.
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Thank you for the word “inconvenient.” I have sensed the feeling of being inconvenienced. Thank you for helping me to recognize that I need to move beyond this feeling to follow what God is calling me to do.
Not a coincidence that for the last few years I have taped to my computer the following question: “Have I inconvenienced myself in the service of at least one other person today?”
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Yes, the call of God is inconvenient. Maybe, that is one way to know it is a “Call.” It is both convenient, in that it demands your natural and “easy” gifts, and inconvenient in that you have to drop everything and go in a new direction to be true to it. Basically, God is inconvenient, but the greatest love of all. Saying, “No,” is not an option.
We need to use our gifts when and where God asks us.
Yes! So often it seems that the briefest nudge of the Spirit calls us to step beyond our comfort zone. The moment of decision is ours to respond to. The blessing when we do take the step, empowers us to be more attentive and attuned to God’s promptings.
I’ve probably lost count of the times in my ministry when I thought, it’s too far, I’m too tired, I can’t do it, I’ve done enough, they can’t expect me to do that, but have pushed on and been grateful to God for the grace moment I became part of – thanks only to His help and intervention. And I feel embarrassed by how easily I would have convinced myself to just pass up that opportunity. Thanks Br. John.
Magnificent message, Br. John. The point at which we are inconvenienced, challenged, is the point at which we become more fully alive in Christ. I think the sticking point is not so much the challenge itself, but the fact that it most likely is going to pull us away from where we think we should go or we our own laid plans aspire to take us. But that is, usually, the pull of our own vanities trying to lead the way. Yielding to the way of Christ not only brings our own selves more fully to life, it brings the world around us more fully alive in Christ, for we are truly living the gospel at that point, not our comfortable rationalizations. And in so doing, we become more fearless, for we recognize what is actually possible by truly living in faith, and with God’s help, achieve those things which Christ is using us to achieve. It’s like any other leap, like finding the delicate balance of riding a bike – scary, perhaps, but exhilarating!
I suppose we can bail out by saying, “I don’t know what God is calling me to do.” How do we know what God is asking of us?
It isn’t like a thunderbolt – at least, not for me. But it is like a small thought being dropped into your mind. You might then argue with yourself whether you want to do whatever, or whether it is really convenient for you. You are given the choice. Do I, or don’t I. If you follow through with the thought you will know that that was what you were being given the choice to do. That is what God was giving you the opportunity of doing (or so I have discovered.) Blessings.
This is a great sermon for me. I often wonder what it would be like to rely on God all the time–always. Maybe I do this more than I think I do; maybe I don’t do it as much as I think I do. I know I want to feel a clear connection every moment. What would that look like in my life? How would my life be changed? How would those around me be changed? I thank you for the encouragement.