Wednesday, October 10, 2012 — Week of Proper 22, Year 2
Vida Dutton Scudder, Educator and Witness for Peace, 1954
[Go to http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 985)
Psalms 119:145-176 (morning) // 128, 129, 130 (evening)
I remember the old priest who led my Clinical Pastoral Education training (CPE). One day someone in the class mentioned that another person was a “perfectionist.” The priest stopped him right there and said, “There’s no such thing as a perfectionist! Call them what they are. Faultfinders!”
In today’s gospel we hear of how easy it is to find fault with God’s messengers — two different messengers.
John the Baptist came speaking in the tradition of the classic prophets of Israel. He announced judgment upon the people and its leaders. He withdrew from the great centers of culture and religion and lived in an aggressively non-conformist way. He was humorless, serious, hard-bitten and confrontive. To resort to cliche — he was “in your face” and he “took no prisoners.” Like so many prophets before and since, his word was too hard for the ears.
Jesus came announcing the Kingdom of God with prophetic energy, but in a very different style. He was a healer whose greatest characteristic was compassion. He reached out beyond the social and religious boundaries to eat and drink with sinners and the unclean. He opened forgiveness to all, including foreigners. He was funny, outgoing, and gentle. He called for an ethic of love and described a God of paternal intimacy.
Jesus’ word was also too hard for the ears. He didn’t live up to the expectations for the Messiah. The Messiah was supposed to be a great military leader and throw off Roman oppression. The Messiah was supposed to be righteous, and this man violated the sabbath and consorted with the impure rabble. The Messiah was supposed to be a holy man but this man eats and drinks with sinners. The Messiah was not supposed to be from Galilee. Look it up!, said the Biblical fundamentalists.
The faultfinders found fault in both of them, John and Jesus. Faultfinders always do. No one can live up to the expectations of a faultfinder. Not even Jesus.
I’ve known people who would write off another person because of one offense. I’ve known people who would leave a church over one thing that bothered or angered them. I’ve known people who have such a finely honed critical faculty, that everything is poisoned by their unreasonable expectations. “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not weep.”
What if we nurtured a gentle acceptance for the way people are? Most everybody is doing pretty close to the best they can. There are times when we can dance and times when we can weep. There are times to correct others and times to accept their faults. There are times to receive criticism humbly and times to accept our limitations and failures. If Jesus said he did not come to judge us, who are we to judge?