On the way

In our Lenten study this week we read that ‘the earliest Christians were known as people who were “on the way” – they were known for how they lived and what they did- suggesting that our spiritual lives are not just about following rules or being “saved” so much as they are about life-long journeys of transformation.’[1]

The scandal of course, is that Jesus called everyone to follow his way, which meant that the disciples and the earliest Christians included some of the least likely candidates; “tax-collectors and other sinners” to use the language of the Gospels. A more contemporary example of a tax-collector would be those Jewish prisoners in Nazi concentration camps called “Capos” who fared better than others because they assisted the SS guards in carrying out supervision over the other prisoners and were rewarded with securities and “luxuries” other prisoners were not allowed. This of course made them agents of cruelty amongst their own people, similar to the way the Romans recruited local Jews to be tax-collectors, benefitting from the oppressor for their own selfish gain. It is not difficult to imagine how both Capos and tax-collectors would have been viewed by their fellow Jews.[2]

Yet despite being called from all kinds of lifestyles and despised groups, the disciples and earliest Christians became known for the way they lived. They were on a journey of healing and transformation that showed in their lives.

I wonder if we forget that the Church is not a temple for the righteous, or a haven for the healthy, but more like a field hospital for the sick and wounded. Jesus went around teaching and healing, and Christ, the crucified and risen one we meet around the table each week, is still in the same business.

As we continue through Lent we are reminded to not lose heart – God is not finished with us yet. Christ continues to call the least likely, the despised, the self-interested, the hypocrites. It may be a lifelong journey, but we can trust that the crucified and risen one is still calling us on to greater healing and wholeness.

Grace and peace,

[1] David Felton & Jeff Procter Murphy in Living the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity, Harper One.
[2] Jim Schirmer, The Way of the Rabbi: Stories of Discipleship from the Gospel of Mark, Morning Star Publishing, 2019

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