From Sunday evening until mid-afternoon yesterday, I had the great pleasure of spending intentional time with the Board of Directors of Beckwith Camp and Retreat Center on a visioning retreat. Hard work was accomplished, but there is still much more to be done. We had two great facilitators and a clear vision seemed to bubble up among the board. The thing I appreciated most, however, was the chance to fellowship and pray with my fellow board members. We always open our meetings with prayer, of course, but because of our extended time together, we took part in corporate Night Prayer, from the New Zealand Prayer Book and Morning Prayer Rite II.
As it turns out, our leader for Morning Prayer yesterday has bought into Holy Women Holy Men. I’ll reserve comment on HWHM, and instead give thanks that we were able to hear the story of Father Damien and Marianne Cope who worked in the name of Jesus at the Leper Colony on Molokai in the late 1800s. The Gospel lesson appointed for the feast of Damien and Marianne is Matthew 11:1-6.
” 11 Now when Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and proclaim his message in their cities. 2 When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” 4 Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. 6 And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”
With that lesson fresh in my mind as I read the Gospel lesson for Sunday, it struck me that this desire to know clearly who Jesus is and what he intends to do is a fairly universal trait. The people who had come from all over to be at the Temple for the Feast gathered around him begged him, “Tell us plainly if you are the Messiah.” It would be easy to explain away the complete strangers who want Jesus to tell them, flat out, who he is. But with some context, with a fuller view of the story of Jesus, we begin to realize that even his cousin, the baptizer who (in some versions) saw the clouds open and the Spirit descend like a dove, hoped for a fuller, clearer idea of what Jesus really was about.
I’ve been on the doubt/faith thing for several weeks now, but once again I’m back to that place where it seems clear that, while Jesus prefers us to “just have faith” i.e. “take no offense,” there is a lot of room for us to ask questions, to take our time, to finally see the Good News enacted in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.