Friday, December 16, 2011

Checklist for the Kingdom of God (invited post)

When I applied for a new passport few months ago I knew exactly what I had to do. Two photos - 3cmx4cm, copy of old passport's title page, completed and signed application form and a check for the payment of 40$ from the cashiers' office. I ticked boxes on my checklist and that was it, I knew that I would get my new passport in 10 working days. Checklists make life easy; It is not therefore surprising that during Jesus' ministry people asked him often what was it exactly that they had to do in order to book a place in this new world that he promised.

All three synoptic gospels have a story of a young rich man who asks Jesus about what he must do to go to the kingdom of heaven. "You know the commandments", says Jesus, "Don't steal, don't kill, respect your parents ...".  "That I have done since my childhood", says the young man, "but are there any additional rules that I must follow?". "Well, if you really want to know", says Jesus, "sell everything you have and give it to the poor".

Most people interpret this passage to be just a hyperbole, rhetoric exaggeration to evoke strong feelings and tell us that charity is extremely important but not something that should be taken literally. After all very few people in the history, including many saints and good Christians, have done anything like this.  That's what I thought too, but recently I have changed my mind and now I
believe that Jesus really meant what he said quite literally. Below I will try to briefly explain why I think so.

We know that one of the two greatest commandments is "Love your neighbour as yourself". All other commandments follow from this (and neighbour here obviously means any fellow human, not only people who leave in the neighborhood of your house).

My daughter is one person to whom I really apply this rule and whom I truly love as myself and even more than myself. In the future, when she grows up and leads independent life, if something happens and she falls into hardship so that she has to live on the streets cold and hungry, there is no doubt in my mind that I will immediately sell all I have to help. How can I have even a single meal or sleep in a bed for just one night when I know she is in such a trouble?! I would not be able to do any of those things until I did everything I could to help her.

Now, if I truly followed the great commandment, I would apply it to every single person and would love them as much as I love my daughter. If that was the case, how could I go to sleep in a warm bed or eat sushi when I knew that there are thousands of people who are starving, freezing, in distress and have nobody to comfort them? If I truly followed the commandment I would sell everything that I had immediately and shared it with my fellow brothers and sisters in need to help them as much as I could.

There is indeed a checklist for those who want to enter the kingdom of heaven and it is very short. It has just one item on it: "Love your neighbour as yourself", but this box is very difficult to tick.

"It is easier for a camel to go trough the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God".

This blog entry was writen by Lado Samushia. Thank you, Lado!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Christmas Story

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christmas party: come and share my joy.

"A full house today!" said the inkeeper smiling. Then he opened the door and greeted me warmly "Please, come inside and make yourself comfortable. I assume you've heard the great news too." So, I went inside and saw that the inn was indeed full.  I counted at least eight fellow shepherds, some of them already having their second -or maybe third- drink. Right in the middle of the room, there was a donkey too, and yellow star talking with two people from the census; apparently they found it strange that almost every women in the room was named Mary. What a weird crowd! No wonder that someone had called in a roman soldier. I myself would have thought him to be an spy from Herod to get news about the birth, but his acquitance with the angels showed me otherwise. And oh!, three or four kings had also come, all wearing similar crowns. "They are so cute." I thought, and went to get a drink of something sweet, wondering also if it was appropriate to ask the filipino maid about some of the most weird people I've ever seen. Eventually I did, and she kindly inform me that there was nothing to worry about, they were visitors from the future, from London 2011, all wishing not to miss such a special night.

Then, everyone gathered, and we were officially told about the famous tidings that will bring a great joy to the world.  So we cherished, and Mr Bethlehem played his old mandolin and we all sang "Little Jesus" and "The three kings" and a long "Glo-o-o-o-o-oria" in the middle of which the young king threw a handful of golden coins over everyone. There, sat at the feet of Mary, I briefly gave thanks to the one most high.

More drinks and food followed. And everybody was happy, talking and mingling around. "Did you come last year?" some people asked, "It was colder then." It didn't snow this year, but even so, few people came outside where we made what it would be a dance with sparkling sticks, and then hurried back inside again into the crowd, where bottles of wine were piling up and the party carried on.

Time went by swiftly, and when the stars of the sky were most of their way down, slowly people started to leave. The inkeeper made the last few teas, and soon there was only me and the music left in the room. And the inkeeper. Completely awake, content to be there, I danced the last lines of the last song, waiting for the moment of tidying up; and so we did, and it was a wonderful moment of a memorable party.

Everyone had been invited: black and white people; men and women; straight, gay and bisexual; transgendered people; astronomers, theologians, accountants, students, writers, cleaning workers, unenployed people; young and old, from seventeen the yongest to more than seventy the oldest -if my numbers are correct-; and all those who came were welcomed and enjoyed the party. I wondered, did the inkeeper know that even if it was he who sent the invitations this party was not ordered by him but by the one who is to come? And when he comes he will say "well done faithful servant, come and share your master's joy"(Mt 25:23).  I kept silent though, it was not a moment for wording theology.

The party was over. The inkeeper nicely offered me a soft bed upstairs. I wanted to say a short prayer but instead I thought "I should write a story about today in my blog". I closed my eyes and slept; and I had a very nice dream.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sorry, I don't have any money

To encourage reflection, as a challenge to our -and mine- personal Advent preparations, I thought I would share this cartoon from Naked Pastor. 
From Naked Pastor