Newsletter August 2019

Thought for the month

Provided by Eddy Hurst Lay Worship Assistant

The Uncomfortable Middle
Doesn’t Jesus make you feel a bit uncomfortable, sometimes? And other times, he’s maybe even more than that, even a bit annoying! For example, he tells us to be on guard against all kinds of greed, that our life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.
Remember that in first-century Palestine, the number of possessions a given person had would be very, very small by comparison to many of us today. A rich man might have a small herd of goats, some farmland, and as many as three or four changes of clothing, and a poor person—then, as now—would be fortunate to have a roof over his head.
Jesus warns someone who wants a fair share of the family inheritance from his brother that he may be greedy. Jesus does not talk about even modest investments, second hand cars or property.
He talks about a small herd of animals, a patch of farmland and a house, and a couple of changes of clothing. And, let’s face it: we all have more than that.
Give away everything or give away nothing: can either of those extreme options satisfy us? We Anglicans have always looked for the middle road between the extremes.
Most of us have some experience of being poor: living on minimum wage, life as a student. We know we could live with less—far less, if we had to. That’s not so very scary.
And, likewise, we imagine we could be quite comfortable with more. That’s the direction most of us seek, of course. And it is where commercial society entices us.
No, the really challenging place is in the middle—where we are responsible for figuring out how much to keep, and how much to give away. But this is exactly where Jesus calls us to be.
Somehow, that doesn’t seem fair. Jesus, after all, had the advantage of being God. He lived his life without sin. For us, it is more difficult—especially when we need to make the choices ourselves.
But, remember, Jesus never says we should try to be exactly like him; he simply invites us to follow him.
And even if we were to be like him, it would hardly conform to the picture many people consider “Christian.” Come to think of it, so much of what people consider “Christ-like” has little or nothing to do with Christ. Maybe more to do with some romantic movie or sentimental picture—but hardly the man depicted in the gospels.
For instance, Jesus could be described as many things, but “nice” is not one of them. He knocked over tables in the Temple, told people to leave their families, and in the Gospel
of Mark is described as looking around at the worshippers in anger, deeply distressed at
their stubborn hearts.
One thing is clear: the choice is up to us. Every moment, every hour, every day: an
opportunity to indulge ourselves, to give away everything, or to find the middle way.
Living in the middle is what we are called to do. As Christian people, we are called not to
be perfect and never make a mistake—but to do the best we are able, recognizing not
only our own needs but also those of others.
We are all called to cast away our fear and live instead in faith. To move away from the
perceived safety of hiding in the margins by the woods and find our place instead in the
wide-open meadow of the middle. And in all of this journey, Jesus will find a way to
comfort us in our afflictions. It comes, but that comfort doesn’t always come as soon as
we would like, or in quite the way we had imagined—but it comes.
Instead, together let us work, pray, and give in order to transform ourselves, our
community, our society, and the whole world for the better. For such is the kingdom of
God. Amen.
(Courtesy J Barrington Bates)