Risk: Nothing Ventured-Nothing Gained

A recent post on my favorite blog–Institute for Faith, Work and Economics,– corresponded with my morning devotion. I thought I would share ideas from both.

Tim Hoerr’s post on Why Worship Involves Risk shows how it takes initiative and risk to worship God. He spells Faith, R-I-S-K.

He uses Matthew 28:16-17 to make his point: “Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally.”

Tim goes on to connect this “faith risk” ability beyond just acts of verbal and “church” worship to all our activities of daily love and giving. ” We can do this faith engaged risk all week long as we step forward into the kingdom principles that make for radical living. “Each person’s opportunity to risk will look very different from those around him or her. And each day’s opportunity to risk may look different from yesterday’s.”

This brought back my grandmothers classic reminder to us: “Nothing ventured, Nothing gained.” She said that to remind us to be willing to take risks and changes in life. We have to take risks for things to happen in life. This is true for us in many areas: spiritual, physical, financial and relational . You need to take risks….in asking that friend out on a date….. In asking someone for a raise to better provide for your family…… in investing in that company you believe in…..or investing in yourself…or the hardest yet, investing in that person that no one recognizes what you recognize–their potential!

That is the stuff of faith…an this blog reminded me of that truth.

Now to my devotion.

I was reading John 20. This is when Jesus shows himself after his resurrection to his followers. I got into the text this time as Peter. “Getting into the text” is when you pretend you are one of the participants try to walk through the experience from their vantage point. That includes thinking through their life story (his call, his walking on water, his denial, etc….). It is godly imagination trying to find new meanings.

Over the last 40 years of reading John 20, I have mostly walked in John’s sandals as I felt young like him. Then later, through a deeply challenging period in my life I was Mary–overwhelmed with grieve, dog-paddling with sorrow, running from more than seven demons. But in my mid-50s, I am feeling more like Peter, older, slower, and not as emotionally intense and mostly just plugging away. So, during this reading, I entered the text as Peter complete with all my regrets, aging muscles and a history of poor risk taking.

So, with a slower pace I strolled through this passage. I had a deeper question of something I have noticed for years. Jesus visited Mary before he visited John and Peter. Suddendly my academic question,”Why did the angels and Jesus meet the woman Mary first and not the men John and Peter at the tomb Sunday morning?” to a deeper questions: “Jesus, why do you show up for Mary and other women faster than you do for Peter and John and us men?” to a more emotional question: “what about us men, we are struggling too and need reassurance.”

When I get exacerbated by a text or a feeling or a confusion or sensing rejection, I have learned to calm my nerves and go back to God 101. God loves everyone. He shows partiality to now one. He does whatever he does because he loves to love on all who will receive that love. Then I force myself to come up with 10 possible “redemptive” explanations for what is happening. It is a very effective technique and I really do come up with fascinating ideas.

So I came up with a over a dozen explanations this time. Then I put on my evaluation hat (judgment) and I weed through to find the top candidates. I dismissed half as obvious poor explanations, like Jesus was gender biased or he was getting back at Peter and John because they ran away Friday night. Instead I came up with more redemptive explanations for Jesus’ actions.

  1. “She went first to the tomb. “The early bird gets the worm.” He was merely responding to her great initiative.
  2. She was mourning a lottttttt. “Blessed are those who mourn because they will be comforted.” She needed comfort the most. He gave it to her first.
  3. She risked a lot before Christ’s death. She was the biggest share holder and was entitled to payout of the first dividends
  4. She obeyed faster. When she saw something, she acted on it. He knew she would follow through immediately while the “men” thought it over and “worked” it out in committees.
  5. She talked more. If you want to get out word of a resurrection, she was the one to spill the beans too. Telling her meant telling the world. People listened to her: she not only shared honestly with transparency and emotions but she probably was attractive.
  6. Individuals run faster by themselves. They can maneuver social situations faster. Pairing, marriage, and doing teams blunt risk taking because doubts arise in conversations. (I dismiss this observation as in reality the best way to confirm news is by more than one witness. Mary’s message is responded to but not always taken seriously because it needed to be confirmed).
  7. She was a clingy personality. Desperate for affection. He needed to meet her needs for closure on that affection.

Several of these make sense and could work together to help explain why Mary and not John and Peter get Jesus extra special visit that morning. But I think the combination that makes most sense is High Risk and High Need. Risk–you could lose a lot or maybe all of it is Mary’s middle name. She showed she was all in that night she washed his feet with her hair and gave up her salary rich perfume for his annointing. She needed to worship Him. Her risk was born of her need and her need made her willing to risk.

The men would eventually get to this deep realization in their own way. Those disciples who keep following (unlike the ones of John 6) eventually come to that bridge of all in as a combination of High Risk and High Need. Its the place of a risking faith.

Which leads me to the ultimate risk of faith, not only with God, but in all relationships. One of the hardest things….to invest in others, especially children or youth is a struggle as you do not know the possibility of “returns” on your emotional, financial, spiritual, social and intellectual investment. But when Mary turns to Jesus and says Rabonni, which means teacher, the gap between risk and reality was closed.

It is what all teachers wait to see. The ultimate ROI. Mary was a good student. Jesus’ sacrifice was not in vane.

Maybe that morning was not just about meeting Mary’s need for a savior and her “right” to see her investment was worth it. Maybe it was for Jesus to see his risk was already paying off.

Hmmmm. Next time, I need to read John 20 from Jesus vantage point.


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