When we are open to the possibility, and are willing trust the Spirit, the Gospel Stories can speak to us in the setting of whatever is going on in our lives when we read or hear them. For some of us this might really be taking a chance. We have heard the Stories so much that we know what they have always said, so there is nothing new. Often this has been a theoretical matter that didn’t affect our lives much. But if we are willing to take the chance and believe and trust in the Spirit, we might really be surprised. They can get very personal, at times surprisingly so. Following is what the Story seems to be saying to me this week, and, no doubt will offend. It has said different things before, and probably will again.
In today’s Gospel Story (Mt 10:37-42) Jesus seems extreme when he tells his apostles that following him and taking up their cross is more important than their family. We know how important our families are to us. So maybe there is something else if we let the Story get personal. Among other things our families offer us comfort and security, and now none of mine are still with me anymore in this life. Might Jesus be saying that following him and living as he lived is more important than looking out for my comfort and security? A religion as structured as ours tells us what and how we are to believe, do, and not do. We feel safe and secure because we know these things. Many traditions teach their adherents that theirs is the only true religion, so we see ourselves judging as wrong any who do not think as we do.
But when we prayerfully and openly look at Jesus and how he lived, we see that often the people he reached out to were the ones the religious system of his day saw as wrong and outcast because they did not follow temple law — tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, Samaritans, Romans, etc. The Temple system and institution taught people that the only way to God was through them. Jesus, however, lived his Father’s love for everybody, whether or not they followed the Temple. It is not too difficult to see parallels with religious systems of today. If you want to get to God you have to go through us, because our way is the true way.
In the second part of the Story, Jesus talks about how his followers would be received. Might the Story also be talking to me about how I receive others? Am I willing to live our belief that each of us is created in the image of God? Can I move along and ask the Spirit’s help in seeing people in my life as images of God to to me? Do I have the right to demand that other people live as I think they should and treat them badly if they don’t? Am I willing to accept that I don’t have all the answers for how others are to live if they want to get to (my understanding of) heaven? Can I receive myself as I am where I am? Is that what Jesus is saying to me?
Jesus tells his apostles to take up their cross and follow after him, to lose their life as he did. This is what happens when we try to be open to the Spirit and follow Jesus, doing what we think She is calling us to do in any given situation. No doubt we will be told that we are wrong because we are not following somebody else’ version of the Spirit. Maybe we identify in a way that is offensive to others, who then roundly condemn us. Maybe we offend others’ version of God because of whom we love? When I meet folks whose self-image is offensive to others’ version of God, can I welcome them as God showing me Godself in ways I’ve not thought of or encountered as yet on my journey? Do I believe my understanding of God is the correct one for everybody else?
Might there be something in the religious aspect of my life that gives me comfort and security and that the Spirit is moving me to let go of? Do I feel I have to know, or can I really begin to believe and go wherever this takes me? It’s easier to tell Jesus how and to where I want to follow him, and what kind of cross I’m wiling to carry, than to really let him lead me, no matter what I say or how I talk about it. Letting go of my my need and desire to be in control sucks, and it seems be part of my cross. Perhaps the Spirit is nudging me in new directions. Knots seem to be being untied, something I don ’t understand, but gratefully accept.
I wonder if Jesus is saying to me that the last thing to be concerned about now is my comfort and safety. I really am not enjoying the stuff in my life right now, especially the last few months, and somewhere in me I don’t want to be where I am, but here is where the Spirit is happening. Maybe my attitude about this stuff is what of my life has to die, so I can live the new life, whatever that is, here and now. Structured religion offers security, while trying to live open to the Spirit does not. There is always wonder, doubt, questioning, loneliness. Maybe this is part of my cross now. I’ve had enough experiences in my life where faith and duty unexpectedly led me into strange, controversial, dark, and often dangerously frightening places and situations, and good seems to have happened. I don’t want to repeat such stuff, but maybe . . Guess I gotta learn to keep trying to trust and let myself be led wherever. When I started writing this morning the Story was nice and simple, thought I knew where I was going. Now, not so much. Not sure what’s going on, but really do I need to be sure? Hmmmm. Just sayin . . .