Thursday 13 February 2020

Start at Square One

How do you spell “love?” said Piglet.
You don't spell it ... you feel it, said Pooh.

There’s a lot of wisdom in A.A. Milne’s stories of the Hundred Acre Wood. And, right here, some really good Jesusing. 

That’s the word I’m trying to coin for being like Jesus. Jesus is a verb. When you “be like Jesus,” you’re Jesusing. It doesn’t seem to be catching on, though. And, in the spirit of Milne, how do you spell it - should it be one “s” or a double “ss” in the middle? Questions.

Except, just like love, it’s not about the spelling.

To live like Jesus - Jesusing - is to live with love and grace in a way that’s life-giving, both to you and the world around you. To live like Jesus - I’ll say it again, Jesusing - is to live the blessing that you are, the blessing that’s in your heart, the blessing that is God’s presence in you. To live like salt and light. (Matthew 5)

Yes, that’s what it’s all about.

I suggested in a Six Ways From Sunday podcast recently that the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s gospel has basically two sections: this is who you are and this is what you do with it. That was quite an oversimplification, of course, and Ben called me on it. We’d been talking about the first part (as I have in this blog, if you follow it weekly), which I think comes down to this: 1.a. you are blessed by God; 1.b. you are salt to season the world around you and light to shine in life; 1.c. living out the blessing that is you as salt and light is what brings fulfillment to our living together with each other and all creation. What’s critical to this, and my point in suggesting the two parts, is that you don’t earn blessing by doing what Jesus says, you already are blessed and living like Jesus is living out that blessing. That’s what makes it life-giving.

So, what’s in Part 2 then, asked Ben. Well. A lot. Some of the most important teachings of Jesus about the law, some very familiar sayings about sincerity, being genuine and judging others and, of course, how to pray (Matt. 6:9-13 gives us The Lord’s Prayer). An awful lot, and I don’t mean to minimize it. Except this blog can’t be long enough to cover everything, so hear me out on the simplicity of the two parts. 

From those very straightforward statements that you are blessed and that we live that blessing into the world as salt and light, Jesus reminds us that this is how the words of the law and the prophets are truly fulfilled. So, now look at everything else in the Sermon on the Mount with that lens.

The very first thing in Part 2, for example, is Jesus talking about law (Matt. 5:21). The laws he talks about, he reframes, not to contradict them, but to reconnect them to their purpose: to help us live well together and not be destructive. That’s what’s at the heart of the law, Jesus says. It’s not about retribution, but restoration, restoration of the relationship that has been broken and the building up of the community that is the kingdom of God. How do we do that?

Start with blessing. Look for the way that is life-giving, creative and loving. Offer grace and understanding. Look for the blessing in each other and find the way that draws that out and gives it life, not the way that breaks it down or destroys it. That’s the heart of the law, to give life to each of us, to our relationship as a community and our relationship with God.

Is that complicated, difficult, challenging, a lot of work, not perfect and does it often seems next to impossible? Yes. And it’s worth it. And so are you. You are blessed and you are loved, however you spell it.