Reading: Luke 10:21-24 NRSV
21 At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
A good meditative practice is to turn an old loaf of bread over to the lawn and watch the birds descend. If you take the time to tear the slices into smaller pieces and scatter them about in an even spread, you’ll be around to hear the chirps up in the trees and the telephone lines of birds alerting their fellows of this unexpected buffet. No sooner will you have turned your back before they descend: pigeons of all persuasions, irritable Masked Weavers, the occasional Red Bishop, restless Cape Sparrows, Bulbuls, a non-committal Crested Barbet. There’s always an initial risk taker keeping to the outskirts, testing the waters, soon followed by birds of every kind, hopping, skipping and strolling from chunk of bread to chunk of bread, sometimes tussling among themselves for morsels but rarely really fighting, or scaring off the other birds.
In South Africa, the Indian Myna is the exception to this rule. It won’t be long before they turn up to the table: usually in pairs, they run the other birds off by flapping or rushing in their direction before smugly turning to their meal. Part of the meditativeness of watching birds is going, “Shoo!” and clapping your hands to scare the Indian Mynas off. They’re usually reluctant to return after this, but the other birds will flutter back shortly and resume eating, like your behaving questionably is part and parcel of the dining experiences at Chez Lawn.
I wonder, as I sometimes do (and this is perhaps predictably the response of someone now “on the inside” who has always been, or felt, “out”), whether we people of the faith, we saints collected, don’t behave like religious Indian Mynas. We flap our wings and rush others to keep them away from our scatter of “God crumbs”: the ways we define and understand and see God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We get very territorial about this sort of thing, even at the expense of others going hungry for those crumbs.
We behave like shits, is what I’m saying.
But here was Jesus, a man supremely unconcerned with religiosity, and he had the following to say about himself: “All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses the reveal him.” And then he went ahead and chose to reveal himself, and God, to the whole wide world, through the cross, the grave, the empty tomb, the torn curtain, his ascension, and the Holy Spirit.
I remember Bob Goff telling the story of how a jailed Ugandan child killer came to Christ and started baptising others in prison. Bob was honest about the fact that he didn’t like this. Here was a murderer, sharing God-bread with others, doing so without sanction or training. Here was someone sharing freely what we religious folk try to hoard with definitions and declarations and ecclesiology and orthodoxy: the very presence of God.
God’s presence, his power, his love, his mercy and his authority are not dependent on our approval, however, something we would do well to remember.
There’s a quote from Beth Moore floating around the Internet about how Christians will abandon the Bible to better emulate Christ. I don’t think that’s what happening – it’s just that people are abandoning a particular interpretation of the Bible, one that hoards sustenance from others unless it gets to set the terms, understanding and limits of God and his mercy for them. People are opting not to behave like Indian Mynas.
Jesus Christ has revealed God to the world. It’s happened, it’s irrevocable. This week, this year, instead of rushing people off in a desperate attempt to hoard and apportion God, we might try to behave, in the words of a fool, less like shits.
There’s more than enough bread, and revelation, to be getting on with :).
Have a good week,