finding myself where I used to see them

There’s lots of foolish people doing foolish things in the bible.  The foolishness of man, is unfortunately, more the rule than the exception.  Especially when it comes to how we relate to our creator.

As time goes by, there is this gradual shift in how I view these mistakes.  When I started reading the bible, I would contemplate how this indicates foolishness that happened thousands of years ago.

As time went by, I began to see that the world just hadn’t changed much.  I would see the foolishness of others and see this as the echo of things that went on a long time ago.  I would draw these connections between the greed, short-sightedness, and sin of people living now and people living then.

It would have been fun and easy to stay in this stage.  I could have simply pointed my fingers at the modern-day pharisees and pharoahs, and felt all superior and holier-than thou.

But as I continue to grow spiritually, the thing I notice increasingly, is that the most important connections are not the ones that are outside of me.  It’s fun to insightfully analyze the errors of others.  But the most important analses are the errors of my own self.

Its not that important that there are other people in the world who act like pharisees and pharoahs.  It’s not my job to single-handedly fix these people.  It’s much more important that I not act like a pharisee or a pharoah myself.

And so I was reading in the book of Luke, today.  Jesus walked into the temple and he pulled out a scroll.  And he read the words of one of the prophets, applying them to himself.  He told his listeners,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
   because he has anointed me
   to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
   and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
   19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

Previously, in this chapter, Luke tells us that “He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.”  Within a few short chapters, though, we’re told, “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff.”

And so the question becomes, “How did the people’s hearts toward Jesus change to quickly?”

It’s clear by reading the verses between that one of the reasons for this switch is that in this instance, Jesus is reading in his home town.  Jesus himself observes that ““no prophet is accepted in his hometown.”

One of my whole points is that my job isn’t to criticize others so much as question myself.  And the questions I have to ask myself are, “What prophets haven’t I accepted because they were in my hometown.”

Who in my own life has come with a Godly mission but were people that I refused to take seriously, because I knew them well enough to have seen them make mistakes before?

But there’s something else that cuts even deeper than all this.

 Jesus says that prophets aren’t accepted in their home towns.  And the people listening to him give him the oppurtunity to say some more.  They apparently aren’t so bothered by this part of the confrontation.

He continues speaking.  Just before he is run out of town, Jesus says, “I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy[g] in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”

It’s then that the people get all riled up.

They liked it when Jesus was talking about liberating them.  They were excited by the idea that he might set them free.  It was only when they were reminded that there were others worthy of liberation, that sometimes God messengers travel to far away lands to do their healing, that they began to be upset.

Initially, today, my reaction to this was quite spiritually immature.  The first connection I made was to other people today.  I thought about how there are many people who pray and focus on their own material needs.  These are easy straw-man victims in my imagination.  One of my favorite mental pastimes is emotionally assaulting defenders of the prosperity gospel.

But then I realized that I sit in church, sometimes, and I listen to pastors and others speak about a world that needs us.  They draw our attention to physical and spiritual needs half a world away.  Or they proclaim the importance of spreading Jesus’ news to those who don’t really know it.

And there have been times that I have heard these things, and I have not even realized how pathetic I am, to sit in my seat and think, “I am hurting.  I am really hurting.  And nobody knows.  Nobody cares.  What about me?  What about me?”

As I sit here, now, I can see that my pain matters.  But I can’t deny my affiliation with the people who rose up when Jesus had the audacity to suggest that others’ pains matter, too.

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

One thought on “finding myself where I used to see them”

  1. always classic and hard to think about others when we’re hurting ourselves, even harder to be a hurting pastor and keep preaching it. no doubt Jesus wasn’t just preaching it without dealing with some personal attacks as well.

    Like

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