[Matthew 12 – from The Message]
Seems, when it comes to religion, we always honor the path rather than its destination. We hold the Sabbath as the holy thing – the rituals as if they are the grace. But there is a deeper grace that they are meant to point to. The rituals can shape or calcify our hearts – depending on how we enter them. They can bring us closer to God or give us something to do while we are avoiding the encounter. The way to tell the difference is in the result – is love served? Are relationships – with God, with others, with the earth – more closely knit by the experience?
And Jesus, it seems, is able to keep this balance even in the face of fury. Without returning fury. He trusts the deep to win in the end and works with it, rather than engaging in a debate about it all. Challenge and move on. Some catch the drift. Some jump into the current of life and let it carry them to hope.
When we don’t understand something, particularly something that touches on our faith, we have a tendency to count it as evil – it is ‘from the devil.’ But Jesus suggests that we look to other signs besides our own familiarity and comfort. Look to the fruit – if it brings health, rejoice. (Of course, it is not always easy to predict the fruit from the seed. I guess that is when it helps to see if the soil is honest and true – if the intent is worthy – if the heart is seeking good. Then, leave it to grace. This all seems to mix the parables of the tares, with the sower, with the fig tree. Grace is certainly a necessary element.)
So his critics ask for ‘proof.’ For them, proof was a miracle. For us it seems to be a certain replicable arrangement of facts. He suggest a different form of proof – he points to resurrection – most specifically his own. And, perhaps resurrection is the evidence of the undeniable power of God’s love. Right will prevail, love will prevail, good will prevail despite all that is thrown up against it. No power – not might, not anger, not malicious manipulation, not those who seek to preserve their own privilege, not lies, not fear – no power can kill the love of God and the onward march of God’s call to relationship, to an end of all that finds itself within God’s dear embrace. (Not so much that the ‘singularity’ is near – but that what God has called to be will be – and will include a unification that we cannot conceive.)
Its an odd mix. Those outside the faith (of Israel) listened – to Jonah. Those from afar came seeking the wisdom God gives – as did the Queen of Sheba. Jesus seems to suggest that seeking purity doesn’t serve as well as you might think. Better listen with an open heart, from wherever the message might come (foreign or not) than to think your own purity is the way to wisdom. God can handle the messiness easier than the self-righteousness.
We are all God’s family and those who wake to that reality shape their lives by that call – making family visible.