Beyond the comma

As a child, church, God, Jesus, it was all a golden thread woven through life. I don’t remember a time it was not there. Sometimes I’m grateful for that. I grew up on a diet of teaching that was probably not always, but, what I remember could be summed up as: How terrible we are. (I never felt that awful.) How Good God is. (I had no way of relating a different experience.) And how grateful we should be. (Why?) Many of my friends went off to a radical thing called Greenbelt every summer.  It took me much longer to find it, but it is now a once a year pilgrimage to a place which has been for some time a companion along the way, along with those I’ve met there. Reading the description of the talks for this year, one line caught my eye and described my whole experience of Jesus in one succinct sentence. If you read the creeds of the church you’ll notice too how they don’t really say very much. They read like a legal text with whys and wherefores. In particular they gloss over the life and teaching of Jesus which might, if I had been offered the opportunity, given me a different view. What I find now to be the most essential bit has been reduced, in the creeds, to a comma between the Virgin Mary and Pontius Pilate. So now I try at every opportunity to expand the comma. That’s what makes a difference to me, like the woman we hear from who meet Jesus, whose lives are transformed.  The more I read and pay careful attention to what the text actually says, its context, how it is written – and we need those critical skills of reading closely as in lectio divina – sitting with the text. (A divine reading) – So now I see Jesus, not as the soft focus and fuzzy felt images of fairy stories to entertain the Sunday School but as the one who got stuck in with the harsh and grim reality of life as it was. Now if the creed contained all of that during a morning service we’d still be there for evensong. But, the love which Jesus showed was a tough love. It pointed out the harsh reality, the truth of a situation. It got straight to the point. Wouldn’t it be great if all our interactions were not an attempt to play to someone’s ego or carefully sidestepping the issue so as not to offend them. Jesus seems to manage it effortlessly offending those who needed offending so that their actions would be brought to light. And comforting those who needed comforting. Always in love and full of compassion and humility. This is the Jesus who weeps over Jerusalem. This is the Jesus who is angered at the injustice of the temple taxation. This is not the Jesus of the creed who was born and then one comma later, handed over to be crucified under Pontius Pilate. No. This is the Jesus who, when he met a man sat with his excuses by the pool of bethsaida asked him if he actually wanted to be healed, then told him to get up and walk.  This is Jesus who calls the ordinary folk away from their livelihood to walk with him on the way.  This is Jesus who tells Peter to get out of the boat and come to him, across the water.  This is Jesus who sits with a condemned woman before those who want to stone her to death slowly melt away in their own guilt.  This is Jesus who recognises a woman in pain in the crowd and despite all those around him calls her to him that she be healed. This is Jesus who enters the houses of countless people which others would not dare to enter and sits down to a meal with them. This is Jesus who tells the woman in front of him the harsh reality of her situation and yet as she responds in similar fashion she is rewarded by her bravery in standing up to him rather than being chastised. This is Jesus who sees those around him as equal and not beneath his attention, as worthy and not beyond redemption; without prejudice.  This is Jesus whose harsh words condemn only those whose actions condemn themselves, yet when they too recognise the way they are living. What a difference Jesus makes.  Beyond the comma, I have found a tough and uncompromising love, a compassion delivered with real humility born of living in the harsh reality of life which we too experience. Underneath the punctuation of the creed there really is something to believe in.

~ rhannu os ti isio ~ do share ~






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