A Classic Tale Made New

A rabbi named Zusya died and went to stand before the judgment seat of God. As he waited for God to appear, he grew nervous thinking about his life and how little he had done. He began to imagine that God was going to ask him, “Why weren’t you Moses or why weren’t you Solomon or why weren’t you David?” But when God appeared, the rabbi was surprised. God simply asked, “Why weren’t you Zusya?”*

Here is some scripture from the Bible’s second testament to consider in relation to this story about what it means to be “called into being” by God:

Mark 1: 16-18 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.”

Mark 10: 17-22 As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal…” [The rich young man] said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Each day, every one of us has Simon-Peter-Andrew moments: showing up in our own lives to live them as best we can, knowing that some days our best is going to be better than other days, but nonetheless, SHOWING UP.

But just as often, every one of us has moments of being the Rich, Young Man (as he’s often called), and shirking our call to live with intentionality the road that is put before us, whether pleasant or unpleasant.

Who are you right now in your life today? Are you showing up as best you can, or is there some barrier you’re facing that seems to be preventing you from doing so?     

Jesus was inviting Simon-Peter, Andrew and the Rich Young Man to this realization, I believe:  to discover their Truest Selves in the heart of God by accepting Jesus’ invitation to follow Christ—to take the road that requires the most from them—so that they can taste and see God’s realness in themselves.

Many of us have found our place of worship (for Christians, a church community) to be a place where we can put our feet on solid ground and be supported in the midst of the discomfort change brings—for following “the road less travelled” ALWAYS requires change, because it asks us to let go of our “possessions” like the rich, young man (to let go of our attachments to not only things, but ideas and assumptions).

When we tune in to a church service online, we are often seeking to find a way to experience the peace and stillness of God in the cacophony of life’s realities. But we must be clear: While Jesus Christ is a reflection of God’s unchanging love for us and is at the core of each of us and at the heart of any healthy church community, THE CHURCH ITSELF (the people who gather to worship and serve in Christ’s name) NEEDS to change in order to stay vital and well.

We need to continually learn new ways of being in compassionate and just relationship with one another and this very polarized world, even as the rock of love that girds us and supports us is never-ending in its span of eagle wings that carry us in continuity and care.

Many of you know that grieving the death of a loved one is a process by which we integrate our relationship with the deceased into the framework of who we are as the living. And this is sacred work. However, there is another kind of sacred work that is just as difficult and sad sometimes: the work of releasing outdated ideas and assumptions of how we think things should be or how other people should act or think.

The work of letting go of what is not life-giving to ourselves, to the community, and the world is hard—especially when abandoning long-held patterns feels like we might be disloyal to those who taught the older, familiar ways to us. But holding onto loved ones even as we let go of some of the ways they may have shaped us, is part of following Jesus each day. It’s a way to honor our own unique selves in this incredibly unique time in our country. Rather than  Moses, Solomon, David, Jesus—or Zusya—who lived in response to God’s call on their lives in THEIR OWN TIME, God is longing for you to be YOU in our world today.

Perhaps remembering Psalm 46 from the Bible’s first testament will help:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

Be still, and know that I am God. I am exalted among the nations. I am exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Amen.

With blessings of authentic courage to you this day,


*There are different versions of this classic tale. I found this one at https://chippit.tripod.com/tales1.html

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