A Challenging Question

Mark 12:28-34

Occasionally, a friend of mine will post the following on the relationship information section of Facebook, “It’s complicated.” Perhaps, they are embarking on a new romance, in search of a companion, or have second thoughts about a challenging relationship – “It’s complicated.”

Last month, our women’s spirituality book group studied Charles Sheldon’s “In His Steps.” Precipitated by the death of a homeless person, the pastor and his congregation undergo a spiritual crisis that leads to a group within the church committing themselves to ask the question, “what would Jesus do?” before every important personal or business decision.  Perhaps, some initially thought following Jesus would be easy, but soon they discover – “it’s complicated.”

“It’s complicated” when we ponder how we will spend our treasure, run a business, use our time and talents, or act as citizens.  Every decision involves gains and losses, risks and benefits, and that often complicates things.

For the past few years, I have said, as part of my morning beach walk, the following affirmation, based on the wisdom of Maxie Dunnum’s “Workbook of Living Prayer” – “I give Christ to and receive Christ from everyone I meet.”  This has morphed into “I bless everyone I meet.” I hold onto to this passage throughout the day to keep me on track as I interact with Kate and our families, the clerk at the store, the slow- moving driver when I’m in a hurry to get somewhere, the political leader whose policies trouble me, and in my interactions with people who see the world very different from me or come from a different set of values and aspirations.  I seek to “bless” without trying to define what their blessed life would look like. And sometimes it’s complicated to let go of my viewpoint and hear another’s.

To me, a life of blessing enables me to orient my spiritual GPS even in challenging times.  When I fail, and become impatient with the store clerk or angry at the slow driver or write off a politician as dangerous, my spiritual gyroscope reminds me to get back to blessing.  I still may desire good service and political leaders who favor the vulnerable, seek unity, promote civility, and protect the earth, but even these are God’s children and so I pray for them.  They too need a blessing if they are to find themselves following God’s way, not my own or their own.

“What would Jesus do?”  Jesus would bless, even when he challenged his followers and the religious leaders of his time to a higher path. Jesus wasn’t wishy washy or anything goes – he challenged people, mostly those who had resource and power, to choose God’s way, to forsake the idols of power, in-group status, judgmentalism, and become part of a new community – where God’s will is embodied on earth as it is in heaven.  But, Jesus believed that even the shady business person, the short-sighted religious leader, or the holier than thou moralist could change their mind – and join a community where everyone belongs, everyone is healed, everyone is welcomed, everyone is loved – in all their wondrous and contrasting diversity.

We have formulated a strategic vision here at South Congregational – a vision carrying forth and expanding on the earlier vision of “learning, loving, and living the Word of God” in the context of hospitality, service, and worship and study – this vision is our spiritual GPS, our pole star – by which we are called to choose our course as a church.  It is flexible and open in its outcomes, but it comes down to how do we bless each other, the stranger, and the vulnerable.  How do we learn what Jesus’ values are in worship and study – how do we use our personal blessings to be a blessed church – that blesses others.

Yes, “it’s complicated,” and there is no one answer to how we move forward using our time, talent, and treasure, but I assure you if we begin with “how do we bless,” we will move forward, caring for each other in our differences and bringing light and love to our world.