Sitting in the car the other day, Missy and I were chatting about the takedown of monuments and the difficulties of honoring figures in the past. I could probably find a more incendiary way to start a sermon if I tried, but actually, my point is that I veered off on a long tangent about how well Jesus has aged. Considering the vast differences in societal views between then and now, concerning women or the disabled or belief of the worth of human lives in general, he comes out remarkably clean.
Ever since I built my first blanket shelter, I liked the idea that I got to decide who to let in. And the notion that by providing for myself and my family I’m being a decent and responsible citizen goes deep. I knew the rules well enough to play at this kind of responsibility by the time I was five. But what Jesus seems to be saying is that this is the perspective my mind has to be trained out of if I’m really to comprehend the kingdom of heaven, a kingdom whose only currency is grace and gift. He seems to say I have to learn the way of utter dependence. I need to learn to live as someone dependent upon welcome. The way of the beggar, even. Isn’t that how he sent out his disciples? As beggars?
Both the wilderness path and settlement path are blessed. But it often appears God may favor the uncharted path in the wilderness, the uncertain path where we must rely on God for everything.
There is a problem in us when we remove the trauma from our founding stories. There is a problem in us when we tell sanitized, cherry tree versions of our history or when we deny that we are the heirs in the deepest of ways of very flawed and sinful people. And the problem is that we can’t deal with the trauma in our lives today when we pretend its roots are only in the day before yesterday.
I have taught the Bible to Episcopalians now for many years, even as I remain the Bible’s student, learning from a text that I can only describe as alive — alive with the spirit of God, which has the power to lodge in our souls and transform them.