When I was a young man still being impregnated with a compulsory full-time education, we were taught the structure of an essay. The introduction teased with what was to come, the middle justified and explained the introduction, and the conclusion drew together the threads of the middle and stated how the purpose of the introduction had been fulfilled by the middle. Evidence presented, job done, time for a party!
Jesus Sends Out the Seventy-Two … The Parable of the Good Samaritan … At the Home of Martha and Mary … Jesus’ Teaching on Prayer … Jesus and Beelzebul … The Sign of Jonah … The Lamp of the Body … Woes on the Pharisees and the Experts in the Law … Luke 10 and 11
I struggle to read the bible without seeing the hand of “formal education” at work … the verse numbers, the chapters the mini-headlines, the references back to the “Old Bit”. Not so much “Good News” as an essay proving that God is God and Jesus is God and if you don’t get saved then woe is you! Love is in there somewhere (obviously) but not really the reason for all this. The reason is to get saved and stay saved and save others and keep them saved as well (obviously).
Just like living is about getting-ahead, staying-ahead and not letting others take what is mine. Love is in there somewhere – but that’s not what living is all about. Love gets in the way of getting-ahead and staying-ahead. Love means that others take what is mine.
Yet – just as in living – the bible is stuffed full of love. So full of love that I find it in every verse and every chapter (but not mini-headlines). Of course to do that one has to step outside the “inerrant and infallible” … beyond the “sacred word of God” … beyond “this is what God actually said” automaton-following.
Just as in living I can look for love and find it, so too the bible.
But I have had to shed a lot of my “impregnated formal education” (bible and living) to see love so freely. In living I have found that love begets love. Love rarely begets being “done-over” because love is not demanding or telling – love is actually (this hackneyed “Christianese” phrase): “he meets you where you are”.
Because “meeting me or you where I or you are” requires the absence of judgement, the absence of telling , the absence of talking – and full-on “presence of being”. Which is a long way round of saying living in the moment of the moment. Fully and openly and thankfully and lovingly with kindness.
Read verses 14-28 – Luke 11 (today’s lectionary offering) again – but this time fully in the moment. Which means “being present” and meeting these verses where THEY are (not where YOU are) …
“Jesus knew their thoughts … “ Just as we all read others’ body language and murmurs. “Whoever is not with me … “ five words out of a stream of words out of an edited selection of a hashed and rehashed bible – and we take that as “gospel” … REALLY? “He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” “ And none of us (after hearing an exchange between people) don’t fillet the punch-line … “And then SHE SAID … “ – I know I have many a time – and always it is my “filleting” and my “punchline” of that exchange. Others will – and do – hear and see it differently.
But looking for love … “Jesus knew their thoughts … “ Is seeing those not living in the moment and meeting them where they are right there and then.
The “parables” that follow? For me IS meeting those listeners where they are: “we need proof.”
“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it.“ How many times have I been unhappy with my own life and how I do things – and I decide to change – and I change.
Diets spring to mind (when I am told I getting a tummy or three double chins) … Giving up smoking (because others say it is bad for me) … Saving money for a rainy day (because that is sensible) … Going to church (because I have been educated that is what I should do if I am really saved) … Ditto “no bad language” … Ditto “no envying” … Ditto “no bitching about others” … Ditto “reading the bible” … Ditto “praying” … Ditto “tithing” … Ditto “serving and service” … Ditto “worship and praise” … Ditto “sin and being weak” …
Look at me – rejecting so much of that … Look at those who are damaged by all of that … Look at those who wouldn’t touch any of that with a barge pole … Look at the “training” needed to become a formal shepherd … Look at the cost of the religious and faith institutions needed to propagate the same “biblically correct education” …
That, for me, is what I meet in these few verses.
Not sin. Not being saved. But love. Love that says when we do something because we should – we will have it bite us on the bum big-time. And then we will swing the other way and find ourselves further from where we really want to be: Loved and Loving and safe in being Loved and Loving.
I have found love begets love.
Just not the kind of love that is rose-tinted, slushy and romantic, that gives me every whim and desire and indulgence I can ever desire – that is being up my own arse!
Real love begets real love.
Love that includes saying no with affection. That includes understanding rather than judging. That allows rather than constricts. That stretches ME beyond where I want to be because where I want to be is rarely where you want to be.
THAT is meeting you where you are. And THAT is you meeting me where I am. And THAT is the beginning of real love. Love that begets love. And that is why I love reading the bible. Because that is ALL the bible teaches.
Once I drop the formal impregnation.