Thursday, March 12, 2015

Steven Mines

To my lawyer ears this question sounds like the examination of a witness in court:  “How can I know that what you say is true?” Unsettled and perplexed at the teachings they have been hearing in the Temple, the Jews and Pharisees are almost defiant, challenging this rabbi. 

“...I’m leaving and you are going to look for me, but you’re missing God in this and are headed for a dead end. There is no way you can come with me.” 22 The Jews said, “So, is he going to kill himself? Is that what he means by ‘You can’t come with me’?”  23-24 Jesus said, “You’re tied down to the mundane; I’m in touch with what is beyond your horizons. You live in terms of what you see and touch. I’m living on other terms. I told you that you were missing God in all this. You’re at a dead end. If you won’t believe I am who I say I am, you’re at the dead end of sins. You’re missing God in your lives. 25-26 They said to him: 

just WHO ARE you, anyway?”     John 8 (The Message)

Before this encounter, Jesus’ had been asked to give an opinion, a sort of expert opinion on Jewish law, in response the case of a woman adulterer brought before him, arguing that she should be stoned,“in order to fulfill the law of Moses.”   His answer:  throw the first stone if you are blameless. 

Confused, even irritated by his upending the order of their world, the Pharisees later ask  “Just who are you?”  Jesus has confounded their sense of what the world is about, of their trying to “get it right,” to live under the right rules, to know who deserves condemnation, which rules apply and how transgressions should be calculated, accounted for  and punished.  Jesus says  we are “tied to the mundane,” “of this world,” unable to transcend the limits of our horizons.  

In our our own 21st Century selves, we still seek spiritual affirmation and communion.  Even if not through legal arguments, we want to know what God expects and what God favors.  This ancient practice of Lenten abstention, detachment and introspection take on an almost comical for some today.   To the “spiritual but not religious” set, chocolate and wine, FB, texting and swearing (!), top the twitter list of what commonly will be “sacrificed” for Lent.  I gave up soda, nuttily distracted by the idea that my soul could somehow benefit from better digestion.  Seriously. 

We are distracted.  Even in our religion and in our spirituality, we are hemmed in, confined not by the law of Moses, but by our own sense of what rules apply, and of what God required of us.  What is our question to this radical Son of man who warns us that we may be “missing God in all of this.”  He says “My kingdom is not of this world,” but in this worldhe upends both prosecutors and the accused, and says to those who await condemnation “go and leave your life of sin.”  To the rule-bound followers of Moses’ law he says “If you obey my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth. And the truth will set you free.”

We are invited to look beyond the horizons of what we see and touch, of our own mundane pursuits.

What is our question to Jesus in response?


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