Thursday, June 21, 2012

Embrace a 'Holy Must'

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things . . . (Mark 8:31).

We call it the ‘terrible twos.’ The phrase is descriptive, but not accurate.

What we see at age two was there at birth. Turning three won’t get rid of it. That first sin, the catastrophic ‘fall,’ left a deep bruise. We feel the ache of it across a life time and in so many different ways. One of the most common is the reaction of our fallen hearts to authority. We don’t like it. We are inclined to push back.

Fred Craddock sees a particular expression of this in what he calls our “resistance to ‘must’.” He observes that so many of us work hard to keep our options open. We don’t like being saddled with burdens and obligations, commitments and covenants. In fact, some regard a life dominated by ‘must’ or ‘have to’ as unhealthy. Craddock doesn’t mince words. He names our resistance to ‘must’ a copout – a rejection of responsibility.

To live a life in which we continually squirm out from under the weight of necessity is to live a life that will make little difference in this world. Craddock explains

As long as we spend our energies protecting all our alternatives, keeping them alive and well, we will achieve very little. Do you recall meeting now and then a really significant person? Someone who impressed you as really making a difference? Then I’m sure you noticed one thing about her. She possessed a sense of having something she had to do. To others she may look burdened, perhaps obsessed . . . The really burdened person is the one who gets up in the morning, goes to bed in the evening, struggles with great issues such as what should we eat, what should we drink, what should we wear? Gets up in the morning, goes to bed in the evening, grows old, and dies, without a burden. (The Collected Sermons, p. 92)

And so Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem. He had to go there. He repeatedly told his closest friends that the “Son of Man must suffer many things.” Jeremiah knew this ‘must’ as “a fire in his bones.” Preachers of old spoke of unction. Nehemiah spoke of a “great work” from which he would not be distracted.

Mark Buchanan calls it a ‘Holy Must.’ It is a burden, a weight laid upon the heart and mind. And those who are so burdened know what it is to live free.

There is a beautiful clarity to life that comes with a holy must. The clarity brings freedom, liberation from every distraction that seems to promise us joy. Strange isn’t it? A light burden, resisting ‘must,’ is actually cumbersome. The heavy burden is a joy.

What is the one thing you must do - your ‘Holy Must’? How will you embrace that freedom today?

Grant to us, O God, the gift of a Holy Must. Lay upon our souls the weight of a great necessity, a free life defined clearly by what you have called us to do in this world. Subdue our resistance, and keep us faithful to the ‘must’ you give, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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