“Everything in life that we really accept undergoes a change. So suffering becomes love. This is mystery. This is what I must do.” — Katherine Mansfield
“Stay close to anything that makes you glad you are alive!” — Hafiz
“For where your treasure is, that is where your heart will be also.” — Jesus (Sermon on the Mount)
I have a friend who loves words — a true logophile, a real word-nerd.
He doesn’t just acquire or accumulate them by way of weekly vocabulary drills and daily exercises (“Alexa, what is the word for the day?”) How gauche! How vapid! How discomfiting!
Instead, like a detective, he inveigles, entreats, adjures, and even entraps them from the most obscure sources for the sole purpose of flinging them about, willy-nilly, by way of conversation (oral or written) and with such abandon as to invite their immediate obsolescence. Rarely are they repeated!
The other day, he threw one such word at me by way of the said path to obsolescence, “Tom, don’t you think people are wont to judge true faith as only evidenced by acts of supererogation.”
“Acts of what?” I answered.
Of course, repeating didn’t help; and I’m sure the word will disappear from your vocabulary soon enough! But the point was interesting, so I felt justified to look it up and use the word one more time above.
But to my friend’s point, it is tempting to think of true, mature faith as needing something more from us than just being who we are (including our prayer and study habits) — some great act of kindness (serving weekly at the soup kitchen, joining a work team for Habitat for Humanity, handing out water bottles as dozens wait in line for hours to vote); or some act of standing with others to speak truth to power (at a BLM protest, during a monthly City Council meeting, calling out someone online for bullying); or giving a large sum of money to a non-profit (toward justice ministries, the expansion of a growing church, or the preservation of the rainforest).
All of these are great acts of generosity and undeniably important.
They’re not particularly anymore Christian than changing your baby’s diaper, feeding your family, mowing the lawn, or having a meaningful conversation with a loved one or friend.
That may have felt a little awkward to read.
But more often than not, the reason you do such supererogatory acts (okay, that’s the last time) is because they are some expression of your concern for the world, for the church, and for one another, just as you do those seemingly insignificant daily things because of your attentiveness and love for family, friends, self, and even strangers. And while Jesus absolutely advocates for helping those in need (feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting those in prison), he also entreats his listeners to live their lives attentive to how deeply and richly they are connected to bringing Shalom to the Kingdom of God here and now.
In other words, Christian living is living moment to moment as an expression of Shalom — an average day like any other day (which, to clarify, is always a God-moment waiting to be discovered!)
There are clearly problems that require special attention and effort — racism, sexism (a lot of the “isms”), climate degradation, economic inequalities, food insecurity, poverty, and on and on. And there’s Covid-19!
But here’s the invitation of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, “Don’t be a jerk.” That’s it in a nutshell. When it comes to relating to one another, to life and this earth, even to yourself, it’s pretty simple — “Love the very mystery that surrounds and creatively invites your participation, and your neighbor (strange and familiar alike) as you love yourself.”
Everything we do daily — from waking and greeting the day to making breakfast to encountering others at work and “on the street” to noticing the red bird singing on the telephone line to caring for our family to reading or playing cards to doing the dishes at night and going to bed — it’s all the life of faith. The Sermon on the Mount reminds us we always live in relationship to one another, ourselves, and all of life with the invitation to bring all these moments in line with Shalom (balance, compassion, right relationship, even delight). Some moments will be harder than others. Some will seem insurmountable. But all moments are invitations to God’s kin-dom.
You can deny it, ignore it, miss it, or even fight against it. But you can’t escape it.
This Sunday, as I continue this series, “Don’t Be a Jerk — a Beginner’s Guide to the Sermon on the Mount,” I’m in conversation with Kagan Parker, Darryl’s daughter who formerly sang with our band before moving to Baltimore to “get real with herself and her faith.” This Sunday she shares some of that journey as we explore where our treasure, and our heart, can be found. It’s a lively conversation on topics as divergent as Critical Race Theory, Buddhism, difficult conversations, and the path to finding one’s authentic calling. I hope to see you then!
Rev. Tom McDermott
Associate Pastor of eleven:eleven
Reminder – find the eleven:eleven service Sunday, 11:11 am at fumcfw.org/1111-live
Or our Facebook Watch Party with Brad Thompson
Previous services can be viewed at fumcfw.org/media/#1111