Ordinary Time – Luke 8:1-3
Classes have started again, and last week as I was getting my syllabus ready I was feeling ambivalent about going back into the classroom. This is my thirtieth year at Oregon State, and I taught for four years before that in North Carolina, so that’s thirty four years as a professor, and before that I was a teaching assistant at the University of Washington for five years: 39 years.
I’m so blessed to do something I love for a living, and to have this job–what a wonderful life–but I have to admit I was wondering how I was going to feel when I had to put on my school clothes and walk into Moreland and hand out my syllabus again.
But reading this gospel–for September 18th–about the women who follow Jesus and serve him and the disciples, Mary Magdalene and the others, it hit me that as usual I was being pretty self-centered and that the issue wasn’t how I felt but how I could serve others. I needed to reorient myself yet again. I needed to be the camera, not what’s being filmed. I needed to direct my eyes outward. I needed to think not about how I felt but about how my students felt and what I could do to help them enter into the literature I’d be teaching and so enter more deeply into their own lives.
And as soon as I shifted into this mode, the pressure and the slight heaviness I was feeling lifted. I started looking forward to next week. I was ready.
And it’s been fine. I have a nice class. A nice group. Open. Sweet.
And of course it’s not just Mary Magdalene we are called to imitate but Jesus, who is the servant of all, who was radical in his time and place for the way he treated women and the way he treated everyone, who was and is radical for the way he treats us, all of us, and the way he serves us and yet calls us in that serving, the way he calls us in every situation to be servants ourselves. Jesus our servant, our model.
And the paradox again, the freedom that comes from this, the lifting and the rising.
So today maybe this gospel can call you, too, to think about whatever tasks you have and whatever responsibilities you face and to shift from thinking about how you feel about those things to how you can help others through these things, how in this as in all things we are doing the Lords’ work, or can be. How our lives aren’t really our own. They are his.