Wednesday, February 15, 2017

you don't have to sit so far away

The Word for today:
Luke 6:12-36
(As I write this, I'm in sort of a lovey-dovey mood, it being Valentine's Day and all, so I'm going to roll with it while I've got it. Heaven knows it might be a long while before this mood strikes again.)
Little nuances that outsiders would scarcely notice make a big difference in the language of love.
Love notices the slightest alterations--in a mood, or in the texture of a smile; in body language, or in spoken language. Love measures the pressure in a hand; the linger in a look; the empty space between a couple, sitting on a park bench, in the dwindling twilight of a dwindling summer.
Some commentators can be so academic about biblical matters that it makes you wonder whether they've ever been in love with God. And if we're not careful, we can get sucked into that sterility, too. Pretty soon we can catch ourselves going on and on about covenant and dispensation and law and election and explication and implication. We can reduce the chemistry of love to the periodic table of the elements.
I, for example, am often a reactionary writer. (Don't worry, there's a support group for that, too.) That means I often write against, instead of for, something. Reacting against a matchstick Jesus, I have made it my imperative to write and teach the infinite attributes of an expansive Jesus who is Light itself.
But in the glare of my cosmic creator's light show, I can lose sight of the Suffering Servant whose single purpose was to close the gap--the great gulf fixed (1)--between God and man.
That's precisely why God gave us four gospels, each of them stressing a different Jesus who is, paradoxically, always the same (2). In Matthew, for example, Jesus is presented as the King, the Lawgiver. Fittingly, his genealogy traces his royal lineage through his legal father, Joseph.
But in the gospel of Luke, Jesus is one of us--the Son of Man. Thus his genealogy, tracing his bloodline, is taken from Mary's side of the "wedding aisle."
In Matthew, the King delivers the Magna Carta of the Kingdom from high atop a hill. We call his proclamation the Sermon on the Mount:
And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled." 
(from Matthew 5:1-6)
Here in Luke, the Son of Man speaks similar words, but in a different tone. You could call it the Sermon on the Plain:
And He came down with them and stood on a level place with a crowd of His disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem.
Then He lifted up His eyes toward His disciples, and said:
"Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man's sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets." (from Luke 6:17-23)
The heart will note the subtle shift in forms of address--from the regal, third-person "they" in Matthew to the pointedly personal "you" in Luke.
Which means, of course, that you don't have to sit so far away from the Son of Man.
(1) Luke 16:26/NKJV
(2) The gospel of Mark presents Jesus as the Servant, while the gospel of John presents Jesus as the Son of God. Fittingly, neither of these gospels give a genealogy: the Servant's only credential is his work; the infinite Son of God has no beginning to trace.

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