Saturday, October 2, 2010

If your mind wanders in church (or anytime)

From Morning Prayer today, some of Jesus' most emphatic commands:

"But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you." Luke 6:27-8

When fretting about what time the game starts - think on our enemies and pray.

When anxious to launch into errands - imagine opportunities for kindness to those who hate us.

When stewing on insults - form a blessing over those who cursed us.

When safe in the sanctuary - cry out to God for those who pose a threat to us.

I don't think any of this means being a doormat. When Jesus goes on to say, "If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also," he is talking about absorbing an insult or provocation, even a shove or slap, and standing there toe to toe without escalating. He's not saying "curl up in a ball and take the beating like a good girl should." "Pray for those who abuse you" can be done from a safe distance - including when the abuser is in jail.

But we don't get to write off anyone, even those who trouble us the most. This is the key to Jesus' message: we must consider how much God puts up with any of us and then strive to apply the same patient mercy to others. "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful... Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back."

If nothing else, this means refraining from retaliation. That's the beginning of forgiveness. It means praying for those who've wronged us, even if we can't create the safety and good will to reconcile face to face. It means keeping an open door for sincere offers of peace, and seeking God's guidance to initiate reconciliation.

This is hard work on our best days. But in worship we can open ourselves to the divine power that makes it possible when we catch our minds wandering, and turn ourselves back to Jesus. We open ourselves to the Spirit when we receive the sacrament of Christ's body and blood, fully aware that they were given "for us and for many for the forgiveness of sins."

No comments: