The reading from Acts this evening concerns the establishment, and the joining of two differing communities.
The baptists, followers of John and the followers of the Way, early followers of Paul and Jesus.
Those baptized by water and repentance, and those baptized by the Holy Spirit. It’s quite a good job that Paul does, easily combining the new “Way” with the old John-followers. Although, he has quite a bit of showy help from the Holy Spirit.
I’ve been thinking more and more about how two (or more) communities build bridges where walls used to be–and more and more I’ve become convinced that what we really need to get over isn’t borders, or differences of opinions or things like this–it’s ourselves.
Yes, I think that a big thing that Christ is trying to command us to do is to (drumroll for drama, please) GET OVER OURSELVES.
When we read in the Gospel of Matthew: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.”
What I think of this is that it sounds pretty revolutionary. What I also think is that in Jesus’ time, it probably also sounded ridiculous. It sounded silly.
Jesus lived in a time of ritualized violence, it’s closest parallel in today’s time is actually gang culture. So, the whole “eye for an eye” thing wasn’t kidding around. Generosity would have been hilarious to the folks that surrounded Jesus–even to the most righteous among them. Yet Jesus persisted in preaching it.
Our call as Christians is still towards an almost ridiculous amount of kindness and forgiveness. One of the things that I have to constantly remind myself of, when I’m trying to build communities and connections is humility. Like the fly landing on the horns of the bull that is this planet, I really am not that important. Think about that. We are really not that big of a deal. When we’re obsessing about if people are judging us or laughing at us, or thinking poorly at us–most of the time they are too busy feeling self conscious about themselves to give us a second thought.
When we’re truly anointed by the Holy Spirit we don’t worry about looking goofy or feeling ridiculous. It’s such a gift to us when she comes upon us and sets us free. Fleeting, joyous moments of liberation where we truly do feel a spark of pure generosity.
It’s in those moments that we can feel that the kingdom of God is at hand, and seek to build it here and now on Earth.
If only we can get out of our own way.