This week was absolute shit. That’s actually the technical theological term for it, believe me. I intend to leave private details private, but just know that I am okay, but I’m going through some things that are… shitty.
Richard Rohr talks about there being two main means of transformation in life. Great Love, and Great Suffering. I believe that I was able to experience Great Love in 2019 through a series of mystical experiences that brought me face to face with Divine Love itself. Apparently, now it’s time for the suffering. Which, given the reality of human experience, was inevitable and which will undoubtedly come again.
I’m not going to pre-judge the transformational impact of this period, other than to say that it may very well have opened my ears to two teachings that came across the interwebs to me this week that I probably would have ignored before.
First, we have Barbara Brown Taylor in Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations, who spun the Parable of the Sower on its head:
“If this is really the parable of the Sower and not the parable of the different kinds of ground, then it begins to sound quite new. The focus is not on us and our shortfalls but on the generosity of our maker, the prolific sower who does not obsess about the condition of the fields, who is not stingy with the seed but who casts it everywhere, on good soil and bad, who is not cautious or judgmental or even very practical, but who seems willing to keep reaching into his seed bag for all eternity, covering the whole creation with the fertile seed of his truth.”
I spent most of my life post-conversion convinced that the Parable of the Sower was about the likelihood that I would become a backslidden Christian on the highway to hell. But what if it wasn’t about the ground, but the extravagant sower? I mean, Jesus did have a thing about dangerously extravagant grace.
And then, for the coup de grace (yes, intentional misspelling), I read this sermon from Nadia Bolz-Weber about the Sermon on the Mount:
“See, here’s why sometimes it’s good to ignore the chapter and verse separations. Because it’s so easy for us to default to hearing Jesus’ Sermon On The Mount as pure exhortation. As though he is giving us a list of virtues we should try and adopt so that we too can be considered blessed – you know, be meeker, be poorer, and mournier and you too can meet the conditions of earning Jesus’ blessing. But the thing is, it’s hard to imagine Jesus exhorting a crowd of demoniacs and epileptics to be meeker. He wasn’t telling the sick and the lame what they should try and become, he was telling them you are blessed and you are the salt of the earth and you are the light of the world.”
I know for a fact that I read that scripture before and noticed that he looked at the crowds and then gave the beatitudes. But it never hit me before today that this wasn’t just a list of things that God was holding out for the disciples of Jesus when they try really hard to follow him and bad things happen because of it, but that instead this was the fundamental reality of human existence. Why does Jesus comfort you? Because you’re a person who needs comfort. Why does Jesus call you a child of God? Because you make peace. Why are you the salt of the earth? Because you are beloved just by your very existence.
I don’t have a lot to add to either Barbara Brown Taylor’s reflection or Nadia Bolz-Weber’s sermon – you should read them in their entirety. But all I know at this time is that in the midst of suffering, the concept of a God who is not a cosmic bean counter but instead a blesser of everyone where they are makes even more sense. The rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous and all that.
It’s all grace.