Sunday, January 30, 2005

Another Sunday reflection

Today Fr. Rick spoke about the old Jewish religious laws and what that says about the world today. What follows is my best summary of what he presented in his sermon. (If I had a laptop, I would have started typing it in verbatim, but I did not.) I think it can speak to a lot of the frustrations that many of us have regarding the choices, opinions, attitudes, and legislative agendas that we see being created around us.


The Hebrews of Jesus' time has a great number of laws that guided their actions and told them how they should properly live life. Fr. Rick said there were 613 separate laws that told a good Jew how to act, live, think in a wide variety of circumstances.

Of course, even this many laws could not cover every scenario and life experience. So many Hebrew scholars tried to summarize the laws and find the most important laws that covered the widest possible situations. Over many generations several summaries were offered up by different people at different times. One of the most famous summaries was The Ten Commandments--ten rules that would help a good Hebrew live a godly life in almost every situation. Another was Jesus' statement that the greatest commandment was to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second commandment was to love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

People today try to live by these commandments and these guidelines, and they DO work for a wide variety of situations. But, as Fr. Rick pointed out there are Christians, Jews, and Muslims around the world that feel they KNOW what the best way to live life is. They have it all figured out. They have THE set of rules that we must all follow. If you don't follow these rules, then you are not living the right way and need to be corrected. The point is, they KNOW the answer and there is not room for debate, thoughtful discussion, disagreement, or possibility of alternative interpretation.

Fr. Rick wrapped all of this inside another of the Hebrew summaries, taken from today's first reading, Micah 6:1-8. The summary is:

" . . . what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God."

Are religious people who feel they have the ANSWER living humbly with their God? Are they interested in really doing justice to those around them? Are they truly interested in offering kindness? If so, why are so many Christians most comfortable when they are pointing out those who are NOT correct?

One part of being Christian, I believe is taking responsibility to spread the truth that you are learning as a member of the faith. I am not very good at it, not very dynamic and aggressive in that role. But that is partly because I do not feel that I have all the answers. I choose to believe (possibly cowardly) that I can demonstrate my beliefs and the convictions that I have through my faith by living a good, sensible, humble life. By allowing those in pain to see that I have a strength, maybe a inner belief that helps me in bad times. (Sure, this interpretation conveniently allows me to justify why I don't go knock on people's door and ask them about their soul.)

Anyone who knows me also knows that when times are bad, I don't become a zen master, full of calm acceptance. I rail, I fret, I worry, I sweat, I berate. (I did all of those things this past Friday alone!) So, how do I justify saying that I have an inner faith? Maybe I don't. Clearly I have work to do.

But, I believe . . . in fact I KNOW that don't have all of the answers. That makes me more standoffish when we start arguing about the truth of this or the right interpretation of that. But, I hope to find the courage to search for the right answer, the right path. As I continue to grow and mature in myself and my faith, my conviction also grows. I won't force my opinions on others, demanding that they see it my way. But I hope to be open to alternatives and be educated enough to present my own faith, my own convictions. If that comes across enough to convince others to consider my way of thinking, then I have helped further a cause where we can all walk humbly with God and with each other.

That is a good thing.

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