Okay, time to be honest! I want to avoid, equivocate, prevaricate, dance, waffle, turn-the-other-way, find a distraction, go to sleep, run the other way! Why? Tomorrow’s Scripture at church is really challenging. Did Jesus really mean it: “What good are we if we aren’t salty? …Don’t hide our light under a basket.” How’d Jesus know that is exactly how I act sometimes? Sometimes I feel flat. Sometimes I just want to hide. I’m not the extrovert most people think I am. At times I’m scared. A lot of times I’m just not sure.
Just makes it worse knowing tomorrow’s “salt and light talk” is at the core of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. You know: “Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are you when people persecute you because of your faith.” Tough stuff! All this is so clearly counter-intuitive, even contrary, to the way things really work.
Feeling stretched by the Gospel is only compounded by tomorrow’s selection from the prophet Isaiah paired with Matthew. Share my bread with the hungry? But, Food Stamps develop dependency. Shelter the oppressed? Provided, of course, they have “papers” and speak English. Clothe the naked when you see them? This can wait until Monday when agencies and programs reopen.
Matthew is all about Jesus coming to proclaim the Kingdom of God. But, isn’t that language sexist and insensitive? Shouldn’t we say “reign” of God? … or at least “kin-dom?” Perhaps. Especially among academic-types, quibbling is a great way to avoid Jesus’ core message, an easy escape – the sort of equivocation, prevarication, diversion that lets me off the hook by arguing about what God really meant. Keeps it all nicely theoretical, abstract, principled.
Jesus obviously meant his call to discipleship for an elite few, right? Not everyone is meant to “follow” Jesus, are we? A few hours in church on Sunday takes care of it, right? Faith in the workplace? Isn’t that unconstitutional? Does Matthew really make too fine of a point crafting his Gospel with “bookends” – Sermon on the Mount (Beatitudes) at the beginning and the Last Judgment (“What you did for the least…”) at the end? Jesus can’t be serious! Can he?
I have tried to take Jesus seriously for more than a few decades. Here’s some principles I try to live by. They aren’t comprehensive, just a few that come to mind as I wrestle with tomorrow’s Scripture:
- Slow shifts are more sustainable then dramatic change.
- Family and spouse come first when it comes to loving others.
- One size does not fit all; others will do it differently.
- A community is essential to hold me accountable and challenge me.
- Keep “skin in the game” like God did in Jesus.
- God isn’t done with me yet. Thank God.
You decide if I’m wimping out or prevaricating! What would you change or add?