This past Sunday we talked about imperfection and the importance of being average and ordinary. Jesus’ work in Galilee reveals his desire to “build an alliance of backwards people” or as another person put it, Jesus worked to create the “fellowship of the disqualified.” We put so much pressure on ourselves and others to be perfect, successful, to look beautiful, keep up certain appearances, that we avoid our own imperfections to painful consequences. This avoidance is not only dangerous for our spiritual lives, it keeps us from being fully present to others in their weakness.
“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.” (Matthew 4:23 NRSV)
[I opened my sermon by sharing a story about my car battery dying and trying to push the car on my own to move it and the relief that came when other’s came to help me.]
It’s pretty silly to get caught pushing a car up a hill by yourself, when the remedy is to realize you can’t do it on your own and you need help from others. How many of us get caught doing things like this in our lives because we’re trying to be self-sufficient, we want to be successful, we want people to think we’ve got it altogether.
The last thing I want people to think of me as is ordinary or average. Because if I am ordinary or average, I am afraid I won’t be accepted.
How often are we caught pushing cars by ourselves in our spiritual lives? Shoes slipping off, straining far more than necessary, working so much harder than we need to because we don’t want to show any sign of weakness, we don’t want to ask for help, or appear ordinary?
“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.”
I’m working on Matthew 4:12-25 this week and after many readings of the text it’s starting to open up to me. This portion of the text constantly refers to Galilee which is meant to draw our attention to a particular area and milieu that Jesus is doing his work within. Later in v. 23, as you can see above, it says that we find Jesus working “among the people.” This grabs my attention as a central theme that Matthew’s Gospel has been building on since the genealogy.
I realize not all morality finds its origins in the 80s, but in this case, I think I am on good ground. When I was growing up in the age of the 8 inch-high bangs and pegged pants, Birthday parties were nothing like they are in today’s suburb…
It takes me awhile to read a book, but that’s probably because I love to have three or four or six books going all at once. I usually have at least one fiction going, a book for spiritual insight, a more academic text, and then some kind of personal development book (leadership, some skill I’m trying to learn, etc).
This must be partially because I get bored with just one book, partially because I’m interested in an idea in this or that book, so I pick it up and add it too the stack. Once I pick up the idea I set it down until interest strikes again. You wouldn’t believe how many books I have that have a bookmark halfway through them! I am sure this is some kind of personal flaw, but I’ve decided to just accept it and move on.
Whenever Quakers from various streams get together, similarities and differences quickly arise. This is the current state of our tradition; it’s not something we should fight against. Instead, we need to learn how to move within it by being clear about who we are while “moving towards sympathy,” as Howard Thurman says, with another. This work of being clear about who I am while embracing someone else is part-and-parcel of what it means to translate.