This text tells of the response of the many crowds who hear Jesus speak and see Jesus’ work and ministry. What strikes me is not the response of those who believe his message, trusting them in their own way, but instead the response of those who don’t believe his message: they are aghast, overwhelmed. They cannot reconcile their rejection of him with what they see: the signs, wonders, and pattern of life he lives which truly looks like something from God.
I think there is a powerful challenge in this example. We are called to be witnesses to that of God we have experienced in our life. We are called to be ambassadors of a new way of living in the world, one in which swords are beaten into plowshares and people torn apart by fear, prejudice, and anger are brought back together as one. We are called to live as lights of the spark of God the Holy Spirit has breathed into our hearts and into all creation, so others might find that light of peace within themselves. This will not make sense to everyone. Some people will be invested in the way things currently work, not wanting to examine their prejudices or patterns which feel safe but prop up structures of injustice and patterns of exclusion. Some people will be so busy about their day to day lives they have not yet had the time to stop and hear the silence that speaks volumes, so the thought of a sacred fire burning in their souls and in the heart of this world may sound like utter nonsense. We don’t need to worry about that, but accept those people where they are and love them. What we need to ask, what I need to ask of myself, is do we live such lives that even if they have trouble believing our experience we live in witness to, they cannot deny our lives? The goal of the spiritual life is to not just experience the living Christ within but to follow in Christ’s footsteps so that when others see our lives, they know we are people of blessing who like Christ leave a healing mark on this world. When that happens, even if people may not be sure they can buy our experience or our words, they know there is something true to us.
If that is the case, even if others do not believe our words, we leave a mark: hearts opened, relationships healed, the earth a little less wrecked. Others do not have to believe as we do or have had the exact same experience of Spirit we have had to see that and say “perhaps even if I do not buy this God stuff, I can be more compassionate. Perhaps I can be more caring. Perhaps I can help a hurting person, or try to learn what I need to put aside a little more prejudice”. At first it may not seem like much, but little by little we can make ripples that spread healing throughout our world one step at a time.
And I sure ain’t whistling Dixie,
Your progressive redneck preacher,