“When I was young, we walked 5 miles to school each way, in the heat of summer and the dead of winter.” Sure you did! We associate such images with romanticized, embellished, inaccurate memories.
As my children were growing up and complaining about walking a mile or a block to get to school in the relatively mild Florida weather, I told them of how I got to school. When I was in junior high (which is what 7-9 the grade was called) and high school, I lived in Minneapolis. I lived just under 2 miles from my school which meant that we could not ride the bus. So we walked. And it was up hill on the way to school and downhill on the way home. And, yes, we walked when it was – 10º F and – 20º F and on down. My locker was next to a good friend’s and we would put our coats, hats, scarfs, boots, gloves, etc. all in one locker and keep our books in the other locker. This made things more convenient.
This past summer, I attended a preaching conference in Minneapolis. Our daughter and my brother, both pastors, also went. One afternoon I asked my brother to take us to see our church, the two houses that we lived in, and my high school. After visiting the second house, we headed to the high school. As we drove there, my daughter was shocked at how far it was. She commented that it was up hill all the way. She couldn’t believe that we walked it every day. And now that she has lived up north for 5 years, she expressed incredulity that we did this winter, too. I looked at her. “That’s what I’ve told you many times as you were growing up.” Well, evidently, she didn’t believe it until she saw it and she was astounded.
This is kind of how it goes with Jesus. Our faith story tells us that God created the world and gave the people all the information and rules and guidelines that they needed to live in communities of justice and joy. People were given instruction about how to take care of one another and live together fairly for the flourishing of all. But the people stray again and again. They follow other gods. They abandon the principles of justice and mercy for greed and violence. They ignore what God has shown them. They don’t believe it. Things go from bad to worse. We can just imagine God thinking, “I keep telling them what to do, giving them the directions, but they ignore me.”
Then Jesus comes on the scene. He embodies all that God has been saying. He lives out the values and virtues that God has given the people. And those who follow Jesus, those who become part of the communities that form around him, find joy and delight, and meaning. Life has never been this good. And they see that it is just as God made known to them. Do it God’s way and life will flourish. When they experience this with Jesus, then they believe. And they keep spreading and sharing this good news. “Peace on earth, goodwill to all!”
After being told over and over about my walk to school, when seeing it, my daughter commented, “I can’t believe you walked this far to school, uphill, every day!”
“That’s what I told you. Why are you surprised?”
We can imagine people seeing things unfolding according to God’s plan and being amazed, astounded, thrilled. “We can’t believe it was all true! Life really is abundantly good!”
For reflection: What do you hesitate to believe from the teachings of Jesus? How have you had the teachings of Jesus reinforced in your life experience?
Prayer: In this season of goodwill and generosity, may we dare to believe once again that it is all true. That creation is good. That we are good. And that we can care for one another and live together in peace and plenty. Amen.