Getting Our Act Together
Second Sunday Reflection
Each spring at Alaska Children’s Services a wonderful community event happens. It’s our Spring Banquet and Talent Show. The name of the event is “Get Your Act Together!” It’s a very tongue-in-cheek title that slips by many. On this second Sunday of Lent we are on a journey, a period of working toward getting it together. Through prayer and atonement we all in one way or another are striving to get our act together. For the students of Alaska Children’s Services, this talent show may be the first time in their lives that they are the focus of positive attention. It’s a time in which our students take pride in sharing themselves and their gifts. It’s a time in which the audience, made up of students, staff, family and friends, encourage, cheer, clap and whistle wildly for each act, affirming each person’s worth and acknowledging that each of them is to be celebrated. It’s a reminder and a glimpse of God’s everlasting covenant to be our God generation after generation. It’s a chance to live out that promise that we are never alone. Having faith in God’s promises allows even the most unlikely of candidates to be shining stars. One student who at home was mute for 10 months, after several months of treatment, was the master of ceremonies for the show! “Getting their acts together,” our students can demonstrate Macrina Wiederkehr’s quote: “O God, help me to believe the truth about myself no matter how beautiful it is!”
In the book of Mark, when Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” Their answers seem of little importance to Him as he glosses over them to immediately ask, “But who do you say that I am?” At that moment, it seems that Jesus is living out what can be a contemporary mantra for us: Who cares what others think? In an age where there are so many ways to express oneself in the world, what others think can be amplified and known in an instant. Trying to discover who they are, our young people can especially care about what others think, sometimes to tragic end. Asking “Who do you say that I am?” Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed One, the ideal Truth embodied as an ideal type of humanity asks his disciples to keep his true identity quiet, to tell no one. He knows of God’s plan for him. He knows of his work to be done and does not want it to be interfered with. He is living faithfully and authentically despite the known suffering to come. Do we ever ask that our true selves not be revealed? In our caring about what others think about us, do we stray from the work God calls us to do? Do we ever hide or shrink away from sharing the piece of ourselves that is divine? Do we resist getting on the stage? Do we resist getting our act together?
If the students at Alaska Children’s Services asked, “Who do people say that I am?” some of the answers might be “unwanted,” “loser” or “stoner.” If the students at Alaska Children’s Services asked, “Who do you say that I am?” Would we answer “thief,” “troublemaker,” “alcoholic,” “unwed teenage mother”? No. To do so would only further confirm their beliefs that they are “bad kids.” Like the Son of Man, our students have suffered many things. They’ve created lives that affirm the labels they’ve been given. Still, they have a resilience that has carried them through the toughest of times. They are survivors. They have beared and still bear the loads of their own crosses. How readily do we pick up our crosses and follow the One who says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life!” (John 14:6). And what are the crosses and burdens we bear? Can the loads of debt, addiction, loneliness, pride and despair be lightened if in faith we get our acts together and follow the path that has been lit and prepared for us? To get our acts together do we dare bring to the light that which we hide in darkness? To get our acts together can we remove the masks that hide our true selves, which might reveal the beautiful truth? After all, “For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?” Jesus asked.
It can take much grace to get a point where we can step away from what others think of us, remove the labels and masks and step into the Light. As we continue our Lenten journey toward the Resurrection, what if we were to ask our maker, “Who do you say that I am?” If we listen in faith we may hear the words of that covenant made long ago: “I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you” (Genesis 17:7). And if we listen to that faithfully, we can hear, “Youare a child of God.” The suffering that can come with the labels can end when we care more about what God thinks of us than what others think. You are a child of God. We are children of God. Our spiritual journey is full of mysteries. It is a journey that asks us to get our act together, step onto the stage and in faith shine. This Lenten journey can lead us to find that Easter is proof that evil, fear and hate do not have to have the last word.
Crucified one, risen one, with the first light of dawn on that new day, the very chains of death were broken and the reign of evil was brought to an end. You have life so that all of your brothers and sisters in the family of humanity may also have life. This is your will. This is your joyous surprise on the day of the Resurrection. On that day, the powers that separate us had done their worst, and it wasn’t enough. Our separation from God was brought to its knees and your Holy Good triumphed over evil. Therefore, with a heart filled with joy and gladness, we proclaim with all of our sisters and brothers: “Christ is risen! Risen indeed!”
Kelli Williams is spiritual life director at Alaska Children’s Services in Anchorage, Alaska.