Too Many Words
If all it takes is words, I am, with Paul, a Pharisee of the Pharisees. Mr. S has been known to say, “That’s too many words. Can you please say that another way?” I’ve learned to be less offended because he’s right. (To my accusers who would say I am for other reasons, I can only reply, “Likely, guilty as charged,” and ask your forgiveness.)
Clarity seems to reside in the DNA of some. Others of us arrive only by hearing ourselves talk a thing through. I know because we have lamented it together–after I went first! It does tend to complicate things (many thanks to our longsuffering friends) but we have other gifts.
Maybe the John 7 account of Jesus’ exchange with the religious leaders of the day is just for us. But I don’t think so. I think there is something more systemic at issue than the word count.
Where Am I?
In the last post, I wrote about the value of observing the liturgical or church year, how it simplifies one’s life serving as both guide and reminder. Today, I write about an insight from that practice, one that keeps me mindful of my location in time like a GPS does as I travel.
In the day’s reading in Engage, the brass is getting all worked up because Jesus pokes around in their insistance that connection with God requires navigating their complex labyrinth of requirements (John 7).
Historically, what began as ten reasonable guidelines given for the good of the whole became a highly developed code to illuminate humanity’s need of grace (that in the present cultural context seems foreign at best, repulsive at worst). Enforcement of The Law of Love fell into the capable hands of a corrupted power structure until life with God was understood as an exhaustive and exhausting system of external behaviors–Leviticus on steroids. But Jesus entered the conversation, cut through the crap and created clarity where clerics had clouded most everything with complexity. Yeah, like that.
Spending time in the scene revealed how easily I, too, confuse internal consent with external compliance, a heavy yoke, a way to prove to others, to myself, to God, that all is well with my soul. And how easily I expect my yoke to be worn by another, at least invisibly if not aloud!
- Squirming if another expresses or experiences their creativity or passion or restraint as I do–or don’t (Tattoo or not…, hands lifted or not…?)
- Uses a vocabulary with which I am uncomfortable or unfamiliar to explain their life experience or mine. (Do you get pissed of or just really ticked?)
- Prioritizing a particular value over one another has deemed more valuable (Bible study before mercy ministry, or vice versa?)
Judging, assessing, measuring… Exhausting! As long as external behaviors come into compliance, I am to assume that internal consent has been given, or that the reverse will be true?
Frankly, Jesus lifts from me the burden of assuming anything. It’s not in my job description, though I’m pathologically inclined to assist wherever I think the watchful eye of the Spirit may have overlooked something!
A Bigger Story
Living the liturgical year calls me back in regular rhythm to the Bigger Story, the simple invitation to a life with God, here and hereafter. It tells me God can be trusted with that Big Story and with my little one. It walks me through the one Jesus lived on earth rather than clamoring after this or that variation on The Theme.
Any one of our pet distractions (the nicer word might be emphases), interesting, exhilarating, or well-intentioned as they may at first be, can, without the larger canopy of grace, become its own complicated system of dos and don’ts; death-dealing dogmas with heavy, excess baggage we are not asked to carry. Before we know it, we lose our way. Centuries of religious tragedy, comedy and glorious, epic love story are proof.
Instead, hear Jesus’ invitation: Come to ME, you who are weary. I will give you rest.
Jesus + X = Rest
I suppose I could be the only one. But maybe not. My early experiences of “coming to ME” had moments of relief, but they resulted in my finding anything but true rest. Over time, it came to be understood less like an invitation to fine dining and more like a McDonald’s menu (Jesus plus X = the “full meal deal”):
- Jesus plus the proper moral code
- Jesus plus the right social group
- Jesus plus the right theological language
- Jesus plus the right physical manifestations
- Jesus plus the acceptable fashion
- Jesus plus a sanctioned career
- Jesus plus a quota of gatherings attended
- Jesus plus the right political ideaology
- Jesus plus the right view of eschatology
- Jesus plus a specific worship style
- Jesus plus financial sacrifice
- Jesus plus _______________________________ (fill in the very long blank).
No longer. Less truly is more. If you’re in a similar place, perhaps you’re ready to hear again–or for the first time, the invitation to rest, to step onto the simple path of trust and walk with God through the eyes and life of Jesus… for the love of God! It really is that simple.
AND YOU? It’s midway through Lent, the seaon when generally we give up something to give our attention more fully to what God offers. What “plus” are you carrying that makes your journey heavy? Are you unaware of a “plus” you might be asking another to carry? How might God be inviting you to them up?
In simple rest,
Lest it seem that rolling to the rhythms of the liturgical year is just one more “Jesus plus ______,” this:
“Once again I should emphasize that what I’ve been describing here is not a matter of biblical rule. You don’t have to recognize the Christian year to be a faithful follower of Jesus. But the experience of countless believers throughout the centuries should at least encourage you to consider shaping your yearly life by the themes and narratives of Scripture – and this is, after all, what the Christian year is really all about.”
(Mark Roberts, Patheos Blog, Bible Gateway)