It is really tough being in relationship with other folks. It is hard work. And one of the ways it is difficult is because what may be a good idea for me may not be a good idea for you. And that can be frustrating. My good idea (if / when enacted) might cause discomfort or harm or damage to you....but it might still be a good idea / action for me.
And then there are those ideas that we all have where it sounds like a good idea in our head, but it turns out it is not a good idea for anyone.
How we look at our world depends so much upon what we have already seen and what we expect to see and how we think we will be affected. And it is really hard not to judge ideas - ours and others - out of our own perspective, which is admittedly not always a very "open" space.
This all seems a bit philosophical and confusing right now. Let's use this week's texts as examples.
In the passage from 2 Samuel we find the scene of a wonderful celebration. The Ark of God (this was also known as the Ark of the Covenant...or God's house...it was the physical location where the Spirit of God was believed to reside) was being moved in to The City of David / Zion / Jerusalem (that is all the same place). Everyone was happy and excited. There were trumpets...there were thousands of people...there were animals being sacrificed....it seems like quite a party. David was especially excited. In all of his excitement he stripped down and danced naked (or at least almost naked) behind the Ark of God as it was being taken in to the city. From the way we read the scriptures, it seems this was a genuine, natural expression of joy on David's part. In his head it was a good idea. However, Michal (Saul's daughter and one of David's wives) despised him and scolded him for the way he was acting. David thought it was a good idea and Michal did not....who was right there? Did it matter that Michal thought it was a bad idea?
This concept runs all through David's story, all through history, all through our lives life and all through the other stories we find in scripture. How do we wade our way through our differences and stay in healthy places with one another?
In Psalm 24 we find (as we do in so many Psalms) stories of who will receive blessing from God and who will not. This points to the reality that in most situations where judgment is passed there are at least two parties involved--the person doing the action and the person judging the action from the outside. And in most situations a person who does whatever action usually thinks it is a good idea, however when we run in to situations where my good idea is held against the expectations of a different person or belief system, suddenly my good idea may not be such a good idea. And all of this finds voice in the Psalms...it is those whose actions / choices (good ideas) that are considered good ideas / choices by a certain group of others (or maybe even by God) that will receive the blessings of God.
In the passage from Ephesians we find the writer (who was probably not Paul) speaking to a community of people trying to figure out how to live this new Christian way and doing something that many of us do / have done as we develop the ways we choose to live. He takes most of the personal choice out of the equation. He talks about how the ideas / desires any of us as individuals have are not as important because the actions and ideas of God through Jesus trumps anything he or his readers might have chosen for themselves. He lays out a vision of how the greater plan is supposed to work - of how God, through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, redeems us from our own actions and judgment.
And then we come to the passage in Mark where we find the story of King Herod having an idea, thinking it is a good one, and then realizing it is not. You know the story. King Herod had put John the Baptizer (or St. John the Forerunner for you Orthodox readers) in prison because he (Herod) did not care for the messages he (John the B) was teaching (this would be echoed several hundred years later with the King of England). While John was in prison, Herod's daughter Herodias (who evidently had a problem with John) danced for Herod at his birthday party. She danced so well (here comes the idea that sounded good in Herod's head) that he offered his daughter anything she wanted. She came back to him and said she wanted the head of John the Baptizer. This made Herod sad because while he did not like John's messages he also feared John and did not want to kill him. Herod had an idea that sounded good to him, but it turned out to not be a good idea. He found himself in a bit of a pickle. We wonder what his daughter Herodias really thought about her ideas after being presented with John's head, too.
One of our current heroes is a writer and farmer named Wendell Berry. In a conversation about the care of the creation between him and his friend Wes Jackson (of the Land Institute http://www.landinstitute.org/) Wendell said to Wes "Whatever doesn't fit the place...whatever contradicts the genius of the place....is wrong. It doesn't make any difference if it is true or not. If it doesn't belong, it's wrong. It is not true that 'what works anywhere, works everywhere.'"
And so we leave the lectionary reflections this week with these questions: Is it true that what works (is a good idea) for you may not work (be a good idea) for every one? If that is true, in what ways can we live and interact so that we are able to respect God, respect one another, and respect ourselves?
I just don't always know what is good for me...
or for the people I love...
or for the people I have to work with every day.
But I do know that you love me
and that you will love me
Help me remember that it's not always mine
or to judge
But also help me to be
for others in your