January 8, 2011 in Features

An invitation to join me on a border-walking journey

Paul Graves
 

Somewhere I read a commentary that asserted Jesus was a “border walker.” Because of his intimate understanding of what God really wanted people to be about, Jesus spent more time walking the edges of Jewish social and religious orthodoxy.

That commentary came to mind a few weeks ago as I was doing some meditative reading in Robert Raines’ book, “A Faithing Oak: Meditations from the Mountain.” He quotes the poet Robert Bly: “On the borders is where one finds truth; at either side of the borders there may be certainties or doctrines, but not truth.”

Bly was not speaking directly about “religious truth,” but he certainly could have been. Regardless of our faith traditions, we are always tempted to make the center of our belief system comfortable and safe. Without our knowing, those centers can become rigid, lacking in curiosity and spiritual imagination.

That certainly happened in First Century Judaism. So Jesus heeded God’s push to walk the borders of Jewish orthodoxy – where the marginal people lived.

Jesus could relate to those who led orthodox lives. But he knew God’s spirit was fresh and alive among the people who needed more than rigidly predictable answers, whose sorrows, fears and hopes sought more than orthodoxy offered them.

So he walked the borders, where the yearning people whom God loved lived daily lives of rejection.

Today’s column begins a new segment of my own spiritual journey. I invite you to join me. For the next “year of columns,” I’m going to do my best to join Jesus on his border-walking journey.

I have an inner need to explore the “more” that our Christian faith has for us – especially when we are comfortable sitting in the same pew, going through the same religious rituals, and hearing predictable messages from preachers and faith-friends.

I suggest that one of the problems with that comfort level is this: Jesus may not even be there.

Oh, there will be a hint of Jesus with us. But I honestly and (I hope) humbly wonder if Jesus hasn’t headed for a border where people are more truthful about their spirit-pains, or their willingness to change, or are honest enough to say, “I want more from my faith in God than I’ve settled for.”

For years I’ve spoken of God’s radical hospitality. It comes from Matthew and Luke’s common statement of Jesus to his disciples to not worry about their lives.

Luke 12:28 concludes Jesus’ imaginative vision this way: “But if God clothes the grass of the fields, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you – you of little faith!”

This image Jesus weaves for his disciples certainly poetically portrays the fragility of life. But he also invites his disciples – then and now – to embrace creator of life as gracious and generous.

His admonition to “not worry” is based on this radical hospitality of God. It isn’t based on the religious system of rewards and punishments that the Jews of that day functioned under.

So why do we worry – especially those of us who profess to be strong believers? (We do worry, you know! We let our fears rampage through our hearts.)

My “yearlong” series will explore some of the religious reasons we worry, and how Jesus invites us to replace those worries with a sense of genuine gratitude for the life God offers us – day by day, breath by breath.

That is the “more” I seek. Perhaps you do as well.

The Rev. Paul Graves, a Sandpoint resident and retired United Methodist minister, is founder of Elder Advocates, an elder care consulting ministry. He can be contacted via e-mail at welhouse@nctv.com.


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