The saying of Jesus are filled with reversals. At first they are unexpected but then as we get used to them they seem to lose their pointedness. They are all variants on "the first shall be last and the last shall be first." They are typically directed at people in positions of power and authority. Jesus is at pains to point out that it will not be that way in the Reign of the Divine but rather just the opposite.
The gospel today from Matthew 23:1-12 is an example. It is directed at the Pharisees and scribes and critiques the way in which they "lord it" over the people with laws and regulations that all deal with the externals of life rather than fundamental changes of heart. Here is a familiar passage from the NIV Bible:
8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah.
We typically read that from the perspective of one who might be called Rabbi, father or teacher. The admonition is to not let that happen. As someone who has been in formal leadership positions, I read it that way and tried to exercise my leadership in a "humble" rather than "exalted" fashion. (12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.)
But this morning as I reflected on this passage, I realized that it has relevance to all of us, not just those in leadership positions, not just the Pharisees and scribes. Members of a community create a demand for a certain kind of leadership. We can easily place our leaders and teachers on pedestals and look to them for the kind of paternal care that Jesus critiques in this reading. Or we can realize that true leadership and direction come from the Divine and Jesus and that leadership comes to me in the quiet of my prayerful relationship with the Divine.
In other words I read this passage now as directed at me as one to be led. My task is not to look for a "good" leader or a "good" parent but to realize that I am to take responsibility for my own relationship with the Divine and through that discern my call in life. This is a difficult and frankly frightening course. It would be much easier to find a new and more compatible leader or "guru" who would give me the answers to the fundamental questions of life.
The Divine is within me and the Divine is my teacher, my father, my Rabbi. Reaching authentic autonomy in union with the Divine and with all that is is the path to the Reign of Eternal Life. It would be easier if this were not so.
Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
Location:Charissa Run,Rochester,United States