Dear Believers in Christ Jesus,
Mark 16:15-20 sets the stage for a very intense and interesting feast day. We celebrate the Ascension of Jesus to make ready for the great feast of Pentecost next weekend. Before Jesus leaves the earth he tells his disciples to go forth with vigor to baptize and heal. This passage is overwhelming to us in our day since we do not drink deadly poison or pick up serpents with our hands. Even healing the sick seems unimaginable.
However, Jesus is inviting his disciples to live fearlessly in the world. We are not only called to baptize and bring people to God, but we are also called to work for the common good. How do we interpret driving out demons and carrying serpents and drinking poison today? How might Jesus be calling us into such a mystery of fearlessness today? Here are some ideas:
Jesus, help us acknowledge the serpent of division and separateness. Help us live in the middle where healing can happen in the center and chaos of political divides, hatred and hopelessness.
Jesus, help us live in the tenderness of your healing when we are faced with false power and greed. Help us on earth to understand that you are the real gift of healing and hope in our world. False power, our own power, is a mighty serpent that always comes back to bite us.
Jesus, help us calm the world of racism. Only you can heal our divisions when we build up walls of violence and feel superior to others, when we separate ourselves from the issues of war, hunger and race. Help us to pick up these deadly things to find healing for us all.
Jesus, help us go deeper into your command to spread good news. Help our divisions and labels today of conservative and liberal, of rich and poor, of young and old, of clergy and lay, of men and women, and help us realize that we are baptized into your name and you are our true identity.
Jesus, help us look for signs and wonders of your love. We are devastated by issues that take life away such as divorce, abortion, violence, mass shootings, lack of health care and homelessness. Help us lift up people who need us and help us not to be afraid of the issues of the world. Only in our world do we find your grace, your mercy and your call to reach beyond our own lives. Jesus, help us learn from our past mistakes such as clergy crimes of abuse and power. Help us lift up such serpents of violence and help us find a way toward forgiveness.
Jesus, help us find you at our dinner tables to break down the family fears of sharing our lives and faith. The serpents in our households of jealousy, selfishness and misunderstanding keep us from receiving your intimacy toward us. Help us preach with our silence and our words, with our gestures and our compassion. Help us preach with our integrity and our work toward justice. Our greatest work in the Church is to recognize faith is for people’s lives, all people.