Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Blogging Towards Sunday, February 27

This week's gospel passage contains a familiar portion of the Sermon on the Mount.  You can't serve two masters: God and Mammon or wealth.  Jesus talks of trust and loyalty.  We in our day and our Western World think of the worries that plague us: to-do-lists, fears, possibilities, unresolved situations, difficult relationships, existential angst and anxiety.  Yet Jesus is talking to folks who were worried about putting food on the table each day, enough for the children or elders to get in order to survive, worried about shelter, not more square footage, but would they - could they - be safe from the elements.  They're different, and yet similar, even with all our wealth that separates us.  Our worries plague us, chase us.  They can become the elephant in the room, no matter what we think of, they're still there.  It's easy to forget the dissonance between the anxiety we live with and that which characterized ancient Palestine in the Roman Empire.

And the question is the same: what does it mean to be loyal, to be a loyal follower of Jesus?  Jesus begins this sermon (Matthew 5:1-12) with the vision of a new kingdom, the reign of God - a place and space in which the vulnerable - that's to say the majority of the hoi polloi of his day - are blessed, not merely used, forgotten, manipulated or abused by the rich and the colonizing powers.  They are lifted up and blessed, they are the ones invited by Jesus to take on a new life that he paints for them with his words.  It's applicable for those that live in the 2/3rds world, who live much like those who knew Jesus in the flesh did.  They live in a world punctuated with anxiety - the fear required for survival.  And we live in a different society in which anxiety is used to convince us to buy more, change our look, transform our body size and image, borrow more to buy more and bigger.  It's easy for us to forget about the daily struggle for survival, as we're teased by the media to forget survival in order to marvel about what we wish we had.

"Do not worry!"  or "Do not fear!" is a greeting used throughout the testimonies of the Bible, usually by God or a messenger of God when they encounter a human being.  Abraham, Sarah, and Mary were all greeted that way when an unexpected visitor erupted into their fretting, stress and anxiety.  Maybe it's easier said then done.  Yet a God who enters into relational moments, aware of who and how we are, inviting us to be free to see more, seems to be one of love and grace, one that invites us to see life for all that it can be, to see life as more than what we're told it is, to receive a life that we often don't yet live.

As I ponder on that I also think of Ruby Bridges, who in a brave act of a 6 year old led the charge to integrate schools in the South, in particular New Orleans.  Portrayed by Normal Rockwell.

She later, as an adult, wrote
"Don't follow the path.
Go where there is not path, and start a trail."
 Maybe that's part of what Jesus is getting at.

No comments: