“Be Kind.”

 

My son, who has autism, is not able to follow stories, not very much. Watching his little sister in her yearly Christmas pantomime last year 15-year-old Prince was worried when, dressed as Maid Marian, she ran across the stage yelling, “Who shot that arrow at me? You nearly took my eye out!” Everyone else laughed but he leaned in to me and whispered, “Mummy, is Chip OK?” I told him she was just pretending and relief flooded his face. “I thought someone hurt her!” I told him it was just a joke. 

Parables, such as those consistently used by Jesus, are utterly baffling to our dear boy. Prince has to have even common expressions carefully explained. Of necessity, then, the gospel has been reduced – and reduced some more – to two words:

be kind.

This morning I read Ann Voskamp’s blog post, immediately followed by my daily bible chapters. As I read both I was struck again how simple the Good News actually is.

Truly I tell you… whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

Matthew 18:18 (NRSVA)

Why don’t we let loose kindness – see what happens?

WHAT IS FAITH?

file

from idpinthat.com

…the Christian world must ever thank Martin Luther for his courage and persistence in recovering Paul and the Gospel for the Western ‘can do’ world.

The only problem is that it devolved into our modern private and personal ‘decision for Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour’ vocabulary, without any real transformation of consciousness or social critique on the part of too many Christians. Faith itself became a ‘good work’ that I could perform, and the ego was back in charge.

~ from Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps by Richard Rohr

In the above paragraph Rohr has summed up the largest elephant in the room of Evangelical Christianity. It’s about time we had a long, hard look at ourselves. And yes, I do consider myself Evangelical, partly because that is how I came to faith, mostly because I believe this is something so wonderful how can I not live it and breathe it (and thus share it)? That’s what loving Jesus looks like: loving my neighbour, seeing Jesus in the people I meet even if they have active antipathy towards Him themselves and, of course, sharing the Good News.

When Starbucks Meets Jesus

“We’re not in the coffee business serving people, we’re in the people business serving coffee.”

~ Howard Behar, former president of Starbucks,

as quoted in The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

It struck me, on hearing these words, that that’s exactly the kind of thing Jesus would say. Not the coffee bit. They didn’t have hot beverages in 1st century Palestine, to my knowledge. Mind you, the Romans were big on street food, weren’t they? Anyway… You may recall the words in the gospel of Mark, chapter two:

“…Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’, or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? But so that you will know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” – he said to the paralytic – “I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.”

Mark 2:9-11 (NRSVA)

and later:

“The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath…”

Mark 2:27

Jesus must have really got up the noses of the (self) righteous o_O This utterly delights me, perhaps more than it should. I like to imagine that an altered version of Mr. Starbucks’ phrase, coming from the mouth of Jesus, would be something like this:

“We’re not in the business of serving God, we’re in the God business, serving people.”

There is nothing that you or I can do to ‘serve’ God. There is no way we can build the bridge between us and God. It’s impossible. Instead we love because He loves us, and when we share this unconditional love – also known as grace – then we are in the God business.

939813df6d8e4998ac6c33a5e322464a

Hurrah! Be blessed, friends. Receive what is freely given.

Image from idpinthat.com

Lent: The Fulfilment of Time

… the Spirit immediately drove [Jesus] out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

Mark 1:12-15 (The Life with God Bible, NRSV)

Quiet

I love the story of Matilda. It is the story of an abused child who meets an adult who was also abused. Together they defeat the abusers and begin making new memories.

 

I wish life had happy endings like that.

 

I remember my dad once telling me, as a 9 year old, that I had ‘sad eyes’. I wanted to tell him about all the bad stuff that was happening to me. But I was too scared. And I didn’t have the words. This little girl’s performance of ‘Quiet’ reminds me of that. She captures – for a few brief minutes – what it is like to be experiencing abuse as a child. An inspired performance, it made me want to wrap her in my arms and say, “No one will ever hurt you again!”

 

I share this here with you, so that you can gain an insight. The great thing about the story of Matilda is the happy ending. I will always remember the voiceover at the end of the film. Danny Devito says, “As bad as things were before, that’s how good they became.” As believers, this is what we are supposed to bring to the suffering of this world: a new life, a better life, a chance to live and not just exist.

 

This is what Jesus said:

 

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free the oppressed
and announce that the time has come
    when the Lord will save his people.

Luke 4:18,19 GNT

 

I am your hands and feet in this broken world, Lord. May I never turn my face away from the hurting. May I never place my own comfort at a higher priority than the suffering of the little ones, the weak and the vulnerable – those you call ‘blessed’. Use me, according to your good purpose. For this is your glory fulfilled. 

Amen