Seattle First Presbyterian Church - Shelter Log
for Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Present: Mark, Neal, Derek, Doug, Donnie, Ron, Darryl, Ron, Mike.
Scripture: Mark 2:1-12
If we chew on a story long enough – like a dog chewing on a bone – often enough it becomes our story. That happened tonight as we chewed on the story of four friends lowering their paralyzed buddy on a mat through the roof so they could get him to Jesus. After we’d all shared what struck us in the story – the initial chewing, so to speak – Jeff, a thirtyish, trim, attractive man, told how he’d had his job eliminated and finally ran out of money to pay rent and is on the street for the first time in his life. “I’m OK, though,” he said, “because I’ve got God and I’ve got long time friends who love me and support me and will walk with me through this time.” We could feel it. One man said, “I want to be a friend like that.” Norm said, “I’m pretty messed up. I may be facing prison time. I’m pretty scared. It’s like I’m on that mat at Jesus’ feet hoping he can do something.” Sean laughed and said, “That mat is the safest place to be in the story.” From then on, that became the keyword – “being on the mat.” At that point, I spoke about how much of my life I’ve resisted being “needy” or “dependent”; but in recent months life has ground me down enough that the only place I belong right now is “on the mat.”
Neal, who co-leads the Circle, introduced the concept of “reading the Bible from below” – hearing the story from the perspective of those at the bottom or on the margins of society. That added a whole new dimension to how this story played out for us. It turned the spotlight on the power dynamic going on with the presence of the Jewish religious leaders sitting there – those with social and political power and with a big stake in the current system – watching and criticizing. They saw what was happening there through the lenses of their system of religious correctness and were the only ones who couldn’t let themselves feel the awesomeness of what happened, instead only criticizing Jesus from their role as guardians of the official version of truth. We could feel how that was a toxic presence in the story, and in our lives. Jeff commented, “Every day, everywhere I go – on the sidewalk, in the library, in churches – I feel the critical gaze of successful people, respectable people.” So, with new depth and understanding, we could say, again, that the safest place to be in the story is “on the mat.”