Monday, February 01, 2010

Try this for 14 days

I would imagine that most of us, if pressed, could say what the first commandment is: to have no other gods before the one God. And though pressed from every side, every day, almost every moment by those little gods who want to control our lives (money, fame, power, desire, you-name-your-own-little-god), we try to listen to, to obey, to serve the one God.

If we have spent any time in church school or in worship, I daresay most of us could even come up with what Jesus refers to as the greatest commandment, that in recognizing God as the one true God, we will love God with all our heart, our soul, our mind, our strength. As an observant Jew, Jesus knew this truth by heart, for the opening words make up the Shema, the great confession of the ancient Hebrews, which is contained in the mezzuzahs at the entry doors of Jews today, which is found in the tefillim worn by observant Jews of our time.

We also know the companion, the commandment which is equal in greatness to the first in Jesus' view, that we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We know the wisdom, we know the truth of the power, the importance, the transformative grace of living out these two 'greatest' commandments, even as we know our inability to honor them, the easy way we put them on that shelf marked 'insignificant,' the graceless ways we treat our neighbors, the harmful attitudes we have towards ourselves.

What about that challenge, that phrase, that charge which is given over and over again to person after person in the Bible, that edict which is one of those scarlet threads which is woven throughout the tapestry of God's story with us?  It is spoken to almost every prophet, it is whispered into the ears of Mary, it is sung by the angels in the night sky.

We get up in the morning, knowing that when we walk into the boss's office that this may be the day we hear that dreaded word of downsizing, and we slip our feet into loafers of fear, ignoring the shoes of peace the Spirit offers to us. We head down the corridor of the hospital towards the room where we will be hooked up, one more time, to those tubes of poison the doctors hope will cure us, wrapped tight in the shawl of fear, forgetting that it is God who has promised to be our shadow through such valleys. We head off to school, clinging tight to the hand of despair, ready to endure the stares, the laughter, the whispers behind the hands from all who know that we got dumped over the weekend, not noticing Jesus tagging along behind us, ready to be our best friend.

The most frequent commandment given in scripture is so simple, so plain: 'do not be afraid.' And it is so hard to practice, so hard to model, so hard to live.

© 2010 Thom M. Shuman

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