As I lingered over Isaiah this morning, thinking about the emergent and missional conversation going on among Christian churches, I drifted back and forth between the simplicity of life with God, and the complexity of what it means to be human in a life as rich and varied as centuries and continents allow. The postmodern construct has us all stuck behind our eyes, experience ever-filtered through dense layers of ourselves, our upbringings, our culture, our inherited points-of-view. We can never escape the frame, they say, so all our knowing is suspect, polluted, and perchance, wrong. Yet, Jesus spoke, and his followers sought to capture his words, and so they wrote, recorded, shaped, and delivered gospels and letters–even a revelation. Scripture says Jesus spoke in parables–in fact, he hardly taught except through parables. We like to laud the power of story, so we love the parables, but Jesus told his disciples at least once that he told parables not because he was trying to make things clearer, but because he knew it would keep some from hearing, some from understanding. Jesus was no salesman, but he spoke and lived God into the world with wit, brilliance, and crystalline simplicity.
Simplicity. It is simple, I thought. My spirit communing with God’s Spirit on a Tuesday morning. A thought drops in that it really is simple. What is complex about sitting with a man who has AIDS, talking to him, laughing with him, praying over him, listening to him as dementia clouds his thoughts? What is complex about thinking others are better than you? What’s so complex about compassion? What is complex about trading hours of selfish pleasure for hours of redemptive service, taking time to notice the lives around us? What is complex about being intentional about deep listening, or writing a check of benevolent support when there isn’t really enough to do it? What is complex about saying to the world you walk in, “I am a disciple of Jesus?”
As I hear leaders often say, it’s not so complex–oh, there are ridiculously complex issues as we put social systems in place–but at the level of the human heart, it’s pretty straight-forward. Love God, love neighbor, and use the whole of our being to do it. Not complex–but hard. The human heart is a maelstrom of thought, dreams, images, wants, emotions, hungers, rages, and lusts. But what possibility lies in the heart that one day opens to the Spirit of God. Eyes can change, muscular action can shift, money can flow in new directions, and suffering can ease. Evil can be driven back–even the smallest increment is a win–and shame can fade and vanish.
Maybe I’m locked in my postmodern, cultural view, but I need not take myself as primary subject.
Looking out on the year of the Lord’s favor…