Thursday of the Third Week of Lent
The one who is not with me is against me. The one who does not gather with me scatters. Luke 11
I’m having some trouble with the readings today. In some ways, they reflect the morning – gray, grim, unwelcoming. We’ve had several overcast days and I’m ready for the sun to return.
The readings reflect the grimness of commandments and judgments. And both were written to communities which were scattered or in exile. Luke was writing in Greek to a wide-flung audience about 85 ACE. Jeremiah, who lived in a time of great crisis, was writing during the early 600 BCE era when leading citizens of Israel were sent into exile and Jerusalem in ruin.
In Jeremiah, God is purported to complain about the people who have “stiffened their necks” and where “faithfulness has disappeared.” In Luke, Jesus is purported to say that those who are not with him are against him.
These are the kinds of passages that give the holy a bad name. It’s sort of like saying to children, “the bogyman’s going to get you if you aren’t good.” They are also the kinds of passages that have justified centuries of abuse by people who called themselves Christians.
Is it any wonder people turn away from organized religion when there is this kind of judgment while at the same time being exhorted not to judge?
Tomorrow’s reading says “Love your neighbor as yourself.” How are these conflicting notions of living supposed to be reconciled without going to the historical context?
My experience of the God-Within does not contain judgment. My experience of the holy has a peace and a comfort and a clarity. The judgment I’ve experienced in my life also comes from within. And judgment in others or in written rules justifies unkind actions.
How do we reconcile the contradictions? Do we become cafeteria-Christians, taking only that which appeals to our tastes; or do we become connoisseurs, learning, testing, using ingredients with care?
How do we reconcile contradictions in people? Must we be “all things to all people” or is it possible to be a connoisseur of living and choose our responses with care, to gather in those lost and offer hope?
Every Lent, it seems, if we’re paying attention, we get to review and recommit to releasing actions that do not serve us anymore. How’s your list doing? Are tension and anger, judgment and righteousness replacing compassion and peace? Today might be a good day to recommit to the journey, recommit to peace, and become once again a connoisseur of how we respond to one another.