Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48This line is not in the readings for today but it is resonating with me because of a conversation I had with a new friend a couple of days ago. Perhaps because of my engagement with social ministry at the moment, I have been focusing on works of mercy and justice as the works of the reign of the Divine One in my life. Prayer and individual holiness have perhaps taken a back seat to a more proactive life in the world.
When he mentioned that his journey in faith had led him to focus on becoming perfect even though he knew that he could never be perfect in this life, it brought me up short. Had I shifted my focus from who I am to what I do? Unknowingly perhaps, but still. The dynamic is always from the inside out. What I do is to be a natural result of who I am and who I am becoming. If my work in the world becomes disassociated from that inner reality, it begins to be more of the world and less of the spirit.
Jesus' notion of perfection is not some individually focused holiness. The lines that precede the one above contain his aphorisms about going the extra mile, giving more than is asked for, and turning the other check. Perfection has to do with my being which then produces the fruit of mercy and justice, not in some forced way but in the same way that fruit appears on a tree: naturally and without external interventions.
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
On the day of Pentecost, Peter said to the Jewish people,
“Let the whole house of Israel know for certain
that God has made him both Lord and Christ,
this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart,
and they asked Peter and the other Apostles,
“What are we to do, my brothers?”
Peter said to them,
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you,
in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins;
and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:36 ff
To me repentance has always seemed like an individidual movement. Perhaps the understandable and often necessary focus on personal sin when I as growing up predisposes me to think of repentance as an acknowledgement of my personal sins and a resolve not to sin again.
The Christian call to repentance is much more than that. While Jesus interacted with those who had committed personal sins, his concern was much more clearly focused on social sin, the ways in which a people or a class acted in ways contradictory to the values long espoused by the Divine One in the long history of the people God had chosen. Thus in this passage from Acts, the people repent because they realize that they as a community have killed the long awaited Messiah. Their sense of desperation and regret is palpable. Their sin is not personal sin--the very sin with which we seem fixated--but the social sin committed, often unkowingly, by a group, class, or community.
It is easier for me to confront my personal failings than it is to cofnront the ways in which my community, group, class has perpetuated inequities and damaging inequalities on the most vulnerable persons in my community. Regret for my personal sins generates a relatively easy sense of conversion. Realization of my complicity in social sin generates a call to conversion of my life style which is much more difficult to act on or to ignore. It mmakes me uncomfortable in ways that regret over personal since does not.