Posts Tagged ‘authenticity’

MARK 8:27-38

27 Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29 He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” 30 And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel,will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Jesus was what we would confidently call an authentic person, someone who was deeply attuned to the Wisdom or essential purpose of his life. He never compromised his path for the sake of comfort or security, which is not to say that he didn’t wrestle against the will of God (another name for Wisdom) from time to time.

Neither did he play down to the expectations of others or allow them to qualify his passion for what was right and true and just. His love for the world came pure and strong out of a center of peace with God and compassion for the suffering other. So when he asked his disciples what judgments they were entertaining in their minds concerning his identity, Peter, profoundly grasped and moved by what he saw and felt in his master-teacher, confessed: “You are the Messiah!”

But then, after Jesus revealed to the group what fate was gathering for him down the road, Peter blurted out, “No way, Lord!” (Actually Mark’s Gospel only tells us that Peter “took him aside and began to rebuke him”; later writers couldn’t resist putting the words in his mouth.) What Jesus says next has exercised and troubled the Christian imagination for centuries, but it need not perplex us. What Jesus meant when he called Peter “satan” was simply that the disciple, who ought to have been following him, was presently standing in his way as an adversary to his true and higher purpose (satan literally means adversary).

1 SAMUEL 17: (1a, 4-11, 19-23) 32-49

1 Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle. 

And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. He had greaves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and his shield-bearer went before him. He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” 10 And the Philistine said, “Today I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together.” 11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

19 Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. 20 David rose early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, took the provisions, and went as Jesse had commanded him. He came to the encampment as the army was going forth to the battle line, shouting the war cry. 21 Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. 22 David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage, ran to the ranks, and went and greeted his brothers. 23 As he talked with them, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines, and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.

32 David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33 Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. 36 Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!”

38 Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. 39 David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.

41 The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42 When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 43 The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.” 45 But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.”

48 When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.

King Saul is the important middleman in this story, since his temptation lies precisely in the promise of technology for defense and domination. As the first to Israel’s throne, Saul’s roots were firmly set in the rural and nomadic past, while his vision as her commander-in-chief could not ignore the fascinating prospects of a military-industrial future.

Saul’s struggle is clearly illustrated in his attempt to dress David up in the equipment of a soldier who might stand a chance against the giant. But finally, having been heaped with heavy gear, David complains with a remark that really amounts to a profound confession: “I can’t go this way! All this armor is covering up and encumbering what I really am inside.”

The apostle Paul would later warn the Christians in Rome not to “conform to this world,” which is another way of saying the same thing. Once you begin taking upon yourself layer on layer of what the world claims you need in order to be happy, successful, and the envy of your neighbors, the true center of who you are is gradually lost to view and you will likely wake up one day to the cold feeling of being a hollow person. Discovering, and then building into your life the disciplines for protecting the core consciousness of who and what you are, is one part of the path of salvation.


O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill?

Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart; who do not slander with their tongue, and do no evil to their friends, nor take up a reproach against their neighbors; in whose eyes the wicked are despised, but who honor those who fear the Lord; who stand by their oath even to their hurt; who do not lend money at interest, and do not take a bribe against the innocent.

Those who do these things shall never be moved.

This can sound a lot like “works righteousness,” a term used by Protestants against what has been perceived as the merit system of Catholic Christianity. Even though the list of virtues is unarguably beyond the abilities of any of us – who can “live blamelessly,” do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart all the time? – are we being led to believe that moral performance is the key to eternal life?

Actually, this is yet another place where religion has reversed the proper order of cause and effect in the spiritual life. We must not assume that the psalmist is a booster for works righteousness (just as it is wrong to assume every Catholic is).

More likely, and if the writer of this particular psalm is David, then almost certainly the “good behaviors” that are listed and praised are to be understood as manifestations of a healthy communion with God, rather than as prescriptions for getting in God’s good company. Causal order in the spiritual life is always inner to outer, soul into body, purity of heart bearing fruit in a life of moral commitments.

We might say that the shift by which a person becomes aware that life must be lived from the inside-out is the critical step from religious duty to spiritual calling. It’s no longer about fitting in, defending the tradition, bowing to orthodoxy, or “pleasing God,” but is instead about living authentically, loving expansively, and allowing the gracious presence of Spirit to live through you.