Give Up: You've Got It Backwards-Our Struggle with Attachment

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

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. 32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But 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. 35For 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. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?38Those 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.’ Mark 8:31-38

I've always thought Peter gets a far harder time than he deserves.  Jesus was actually there alongside Jesus.  If Peter doesn’t get this and understand this, how sure are you that you do?  

Consider what happened to Earl.  While looking out over the canyon, Earl leaned against the fence.  Unfortunately, it was a section that had weakened in recent rains and Earl tumbled over.  The flailing of his arms allowed him to snag hold of tree growing from the side of the canyon.  No one saw him fall and Earl quickly grew tired of hollering for help.

Finally, Earl cried out, “God help me!  Please, God, help me.”  To Earl’s surprise he heard a voice answer back, “All right,” came the voice.  “Let go.”  Looking down, Earl saw the bottom of the canyon far below and the jagged rocks which waited for him.  “Let go?” he thought, SERIOUSLY?!?!  “But God, you don’t understand!”  He yelled, “I’m too far up, I’ll…”

“Let go,” the voice said again.  Only the wind made a sound.  Then, in a timid voice, Earl called back, “Is there someone else I can talk to up there?”  

We tend to be fairly attached to our convictions about religions so it may surprise you that nearly every religion, and certainly the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, all speak about our attachment; our need to GIVE UP.  Earl’s story is funny but it isn’t far from reality either.  You may recall the story of Aron Ralson, the mountaineer in Colorado, who, after a number of days with an arm pinned under a boulder, took his pocket knife out and self-amputated.  To gain life he had to give up his arm.

Rarely will we face such life and death struggles.  But Jesus says, “Hold on!”  You want to be my disciple?  Then ask yourself, what are you attached to?  What are you holding onto you won’t give up?  You want to count yourself as “people of the Cross?” If you do, you’ve got some thing or somethings to consider giving up.  

Jesus is concerned for the soul though it is a concern rooted in our physical world.  It is sukey (psu-khey), the life breath we share with all creation. It is the “animal life” understanding.  Think again of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for food, water, clothing and shelter, and wifi.  Just as the Spirit’s fruits of love, joy, peace, kindness and the rest, are shown in the physical world, it is also the physical world which so holds us, we just cannot give it up.  But it isn’t the item, or title or even person which is the problem.  The problem of attachment is when the item has become part of our very self.

There is a story that tells of a monk who had as a practice of his spirituality, taken a vow of poverty.  Other than his simple cloak, he had in his possession a golden begging bowl that had been given to him by the king, who was his disciple.  One evening, as the monk laid to down to sleep in the ruins of a monastery, he spied a thief in the shadows.  Calling out to the thief, he said, “Here, take this bowl.  This way, you will not disturb me as I sleep.  The thief grabbed it and immediately fled, thankful for his good fortune.  But he returned the next day.  He spoke to the monk, “When you gave me the bowl, I felt so poor.  Teach me to acquire the riches that come from living a life of lighthearted detachment.”  (from “The Spirituality of Imperfection”)

There is nothing you have that God wants except to be in relationship to you, for you to know God as loving God.  But you cannot dictate the terms by which you come to God, it is God who has made the way.  We celebrate this great mystery, that God gave up his life for us.  It is your turn, are you prepared today to give up?


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