Many years ago I was attending a Catholic parish that featured an extremely charismatic priest. He spoke with remarkable passion and an almost uncanny ability to tap into the collective unconscious of the listening public. He was tremendously inspirational and possessed the enviable ability to ferociously challenge the assembly without driving us out the door! He was able to bridge the past with the present and could resonant very old ideas and theology into fresh and vibrant sound bites. However, in time after the initial sparkle had begun to dull I found myself analyzing some of his content with dismay. It occurred to me that he was actually twisting the Jesus message to support various political agendas.
After twenty-five years of studying and interpreting the Jesus story I keep returning to his consistent message of inclusion, compassion and love. Consider the encounter Jesus has with the marginalized: there is always acceptance and affirmation for their faith. He rewards people for their ability to look beyond the current thinking and their willingness to glimpse the possibilities for a new interpretation of God’s identity and ultimately God’s desire for the human family. Be honest, when you listen to the images and stories in the Bible don’t you hear an echo of God’s priority for human being’s loving, honoring and forgiving one another? Is there not an unwavering yearning for us to love God, neighbor and self? How then does that on-point communication turn into interpretations of ex-clusion and judgment?
Believe me I, like everyone else in the world, can get seduced by eloquence, fervor and physical beauty. Like all people, I love nothing more than hearing an inspired person verbalize and confirm my own personal and political inclinations. Nevertheless, if what I am hearing in church is not inspiring me to reach for a more profoundly loving relationship with my mysterious God, if it is not propelling me into forgiving my neighbors and the stranger, if my self esteem and self confidence are not improving with the preaching, then I need to move on! And so must you. Because the false prophet will accomplish the complete opposite of our heart’s desire. The false prophet makes us angry and the true prophet brings us peace.“Teacher, what must I do to inherit everlasting life?’ Jesus answered him: “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” He replied: “You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you shall live.” Luke 10