Saturday, October 4, 2014

Being Happy in the Land of Mercy

October 5, 2014

Dear Friends,

John Shea’s book The Spirit Master has a delightful epilogue titled “A Down-and-Out Disciple Meets His Match.” (In my opinion, the epilogue alone is worth the cost of the book.)

In the story, a frustrated, discouraged disciple is eating popcorn while leafing furiously through his Bible, looking for some reassuring text. Jesus suddenly appears in the chair opposite him, and meeting the disciple’s astonished, disbelieving stare, asks, “Got anything to eat?” (I know, I know—cyberspace Emmaus, but far from irreverent I assure you.)

In Shea’s Epilogue, the conversation that follows between Jesus and the Down-and-Out Disciple considers many issues, including the question of whether it is advisable to butter and salt popcorn (where do you suppose Jesus came down on that issue?). 

It also included a story Jesus told about a bank robber who carefully planned a heist over a long period of time, but who panicked when he reached the teller’s window and simply asked directions to the washroom. 

Shea’s gift lies in his ability to capture something of the way Jesus must have sounded to his disciples in Galilee—laughter and truth and mystery and practical questions (to-salt-or-not-to-salt the popcorn) all in the same life-altering conversation. The Epilogue is too good to risk spoiling by paraphrase and summary, so read it. You’ll like it—and you’ll laugh AND think.

But I want to share one of the arresting comments Jesus made to the Down-and-Out Disciple. 

Crunching away on his popcorn, the disciple dismally considered (in detail) his failure to be a perfect disciple. Jesus listened, then observed quietly, “…I do not think you are happy in the land of mercy.”

Thinking with you today about human absurdity—we make mercy into misery at times simply because mercy entails acknowledgment of personal imperfection. Think about that!!

In my opinion, this response to our unavoidable human limitations may, arguably, be the worst problem-solving effort in the history of God’s people. Move over, Adam and Eve.

Planning this week to live joyfully in the land of mercy. To do so seems to me to be a matter of common sense not sainthood.

See you next week.


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