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An Invitation to Go Deep.

Matthew 5:17-20(21-26)

Epiphany 6, Common Lectionary Year A

©2017 Rev. Elisabeth R. Jones

What happened?!
After three weeks of free-pass invitation, grounded in grace,
to “Come, see! Be blessed! Be counted as salt and light…”
Jesus seems to have shifted in his seat,
taken off the gloves, and is now laying down,
a steelier invitation
to go deep, to get involved, to become implicated,
in this Kingdom-on- earth Dream of God.

Jesus knows fine well that the religiously observant among those new disciples,
and the crowd listening in just beyond them, that includes us,
all know the key signature of the Torah – the 10 Commandments,
the Golden Rule, the practices of observance
– church, charity, managing the mouth,
resisting the worst temptations,
patience with family, politeness with strangers –
culturally acceptable religiosity that doesn’t rock the boat.

But he also knows from his own life’s experience,
that there’s a qualitative difference between
‘this righteousness of the religiously observant’
and how this Dream of God can actually transform
the heart of how we live our lives,
and indeed transform the culture.
I’ve said it before many times from this pulpit that
Jesus is God’s Dream in flesh and bone.
Well, with this invitation, he wants us to be that too!

Before I go any further, I’d like to pause long enough
to be clear. Jesus said it himself, but we often ignore him;
this Kingdom invitation is not to something new,
but to something radical, rooted, deep, and old, in the heart of God
among God’s people.
Don’t be fooled by what scholars often call antitheses –
“You’ve heard it said, but I say…”
as if he’s laying them all aside,
he is not!
He’s digging under, going deep to the heart,
to the core, to the essence of God’s Dream,
to fill it full with this living, breathing, transformative practice….
to create muscle memory of what this Dream can be and look like and feel like, so that you wouldn’t want to do anything else, but choose this life that he offers!

When Martha and I were planning the KidZone worship experience for today
around this invitation from Moses and from Jesus to choose life,
to choose to live God’s Dream,
we talked about how children learn to make wise choices.
Practise. Create muscle memory:
we learn to use a spoon by… using one!
to clean our teeth by getting toothpaste everywhere and brushing our noses!
we learn to swim by getting in the water,
to share toys by practice, to negotiate turns, by practice.
As our bodies get into these life habits,
our emotional muscle memory kicks in too.
With a parent and life preserver, we learn to feel safe and adventurous in the pool;
we feel empowered when we help a younger sibling,
or hold the cane for our grandmother;
we feel important, part of something bigger when our songs uplift a community,
when adults walk prayerfully around the labyrinth we’ve made.

Are we any different as adults?
I don’t think so.
If we listen to Jesus inviting us to go deep into the essence and the heart of God’s Dream for us,
the invitation to be partners with God in
blessing, healing, caring and creating in the midst of this world,
don’t we learn it best, not merely by listening, but by doing?

When Jesus spoke of the commandment not to murder,
he invites us to go deeper, and see at the heart of this “Thou shalt not”
an invitation to uphold and cherish fragile life,
and to practise that where the rubber hits the road,
making peace with those who have wronged us.

To go deep is to discover that the Gospel is not merely a preventative measure,
holding us back from the worst of ourselves,
but is an invitation to grow into the fullness of the love of God
for the world, all of it.

If Jesus were here now,
he’d be looking around in search of the evidence amongst us
of God’s Dream working itself into this community’s muscle memory,
its life and practice,
its habits of the heart.

He’d look and see some of us learning about food security
for seniors, the sick, the weary, the culturally displaced
who can’t read labels on the packages,
or don’t yet know what Canadian staple can nourish their children.

He would discover that some of us are creating the muscle memory of care
for the stranger, the refugee, the meek of the earth,
by knitting prayer shawls,
or digging through the scarf pile at home so that Cedar Park can get out there in this frigid cold to keep a stranger warm.
Jesus would notice letter writing campaigns to advocate for continued progress
in Canada’s response (and our own) to the refugee catastrophe gripping our world.
And Jesus would happily walk with some of us to the Pierrefonds mosque this afternoon, to forge new bonds of friendship between cultures and faiths, for the sake of the peace of the world.

He’d want us to be notice the Dream alive in our children,
one who’s taken to packing an extra fruit cup for the kid who never seems to have a snack at recess, or the one who shepherds a little Cantonese-speaking boy during KidZone.

He’d tear up, like I did at this email from Martha after Friday’s F4.
Over breakfast, I was thinking about the God’s Dream as that muscle memory thing we were talking about. When you’ve witnessed it and felt it on a cellular level, it has absolutely nothing to do with that legalistic Pharisee xxxx, does it?
I mean, there already IS heaven on Earth when strangers feel safe sharing their babies, when we talk in the language of the heart and understand each other, when a Muslim family considers attending worship at a Christian church, when hungry people are fed with no strings attached, when we get to do highs and lows with random children and adults–and it rocks, when Sunday folks seek out strangers to connect with, when two youth know that they are enough to be given a whole evening of one-on-one attention, when a widow and lonely twenty-something become lost in conversation, when nationalities and age all melt away…It’s not a pipe dream!
How is it that we get to experience this this?! (Martha Randy, Feb 11, 2017. Used with permission)
How indeed?! Because we have this Great Invitation from
God the Creator, to be part of building God’s Dream
not in the sweet by and by, but here, and now,
and it’s quite the party!

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