What happens when the rules suddenly change? What if the lines you had become accustomed to were suddenly not there?
We don't know about you, but we sort of appreciate solid guidelines and rules. They help us know when we are doing things correctly and they help us know when we are doing things wrong. Rules and guidelines also help us to know who is with us and who is not with us. They help us know who / what we can judge as appropriate and who / what we can judge as inappropriate.
But what happens if a line gets moved? What happens if the rules suddenly change and behavior is different and you can no longer judge the people you used to judge?
In this week's lectionary readings we get a few examples of lines being moved and how folks have to re-examine or re-think their ways of behaving.
In John's Gospel, the resurrected Jesus is departing once again, and he commissions his followers with a new commandment - love one another - as I (Jesus) have loved you. On the surface, the commandment to "love one another" is part of the tradition of Jewish society. Jesus and his disciples would have been attentive to the widow and the orphan and the resident alien. But this is the resurrected Jesus - Jesus who died on a cross in the process of loving people regardless of their creed, their temple status, their race - suggesting to his disciples that this is the new standard. Be willing to die for those you love. And you are called to love one another. Can you imagine that slowly sinking in, amidst the grief and the awe and the hope? He is telling folks that are used to following lots of rules and lots of guidelines to dictate their behavior that the thing they should focus on is just loving one another.
In this week's passage from Acts we see a lot of lines being moved. Peter is faced not only with eating foods that were forbidden to eat according to Jewish dietary laws, but he is also faced with the reality that "God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life." The things that were used to define Jews and also followers of Jesus (who at the time were mostly Jews) suddenly didn't apply. As given through a dream of Peter, the followers of Jesus could eat what they wanted with Jews as well as Gentiles. The circle is suddenly drawn wider than anyone could have imagined.
The psalmist shares praise for all of God's creative wonder. In particular, the psalmist credits God with the boundaries of creation - beyond which no one shall pass. Rules. Boundaries. Guidelines. Static limits in creation.
And then in the Revelation of John we see some fantastic line moving. In his vision John sees "a new heaven and a new earth" and a "new Jerusalem" where "death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more" where the one on the throne says "I am making all things new." Wow. How are we supposed to exist when lines get moved like that?
Who makes the rules? And what happens when they change? Suddenly? Gradually?
I chafe at the notion
that there are things that have dominion
over me - my powerful self.
But oh, I also like the comfort
of knowing who I am.
Knowing what is expected of me.
Knowing who is right
and who is wrong.
But you challenge me
with surprises I cannot fathom
that change the very road
as it passes below my wheels.
Give me faith
to rest in the shifting lanes,
with hands and heart
willing to do follow you.
© matt & laura norvell 2010 www.settingourstones.org
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