“Random acts of glory – and senseless acts of Grace” would be a good description of the earthly ministry of Jesus – especially as we see it expressed in the Gospel accounts.
The ‘ministry’ of Jesus that we see is rarely theological, preachy or even religious; but it is, unrelentingly (and usually infuriatingly) individual, improvisational and, almost always, beyond the scope and propriety, not only of his critics, but of his closest followers.
I wonder sometimes what it would have been like to witness a semi-anonymous, itinerant healer as he (or she!) would walk through the worst parts of town (where most of us would rather not go) and touch, heal and restore those we’d rather not acknowledge, talk to, and certainly not touch.
In fact, these are the people, many of us are convinced, that don’t ‘deserve’ healing and restoration; these people many of us have decided, deserve what they have – no more and no other.
We, and people like us, on the other hand, ‘deserve’ restoration, healing and blessings.
Jesus’ followers did, and do, and will, operate under a different set of assumptions; Jesus assumes that his followers will live out the ultimate ‘pay it forward’ lifestyle.
In fact Jesus assumes that we will invite those who can’t invite us back, loan money to those who cannot pay us back (Luke 14:12-24) forgive those who offend us, more times than they (or we) can count (Matthew 18:22).
It’s a ridiculous, preposterous and impossible life-style; could any of us imagine a free-wheeling life-style of unrequited (and entirely undeserved) generosity, forgiveness and encouragement?
Then, as now, this roving, unpredictable Grace would scramble our routines, baffle our assumptions and demolish – and shame – our neat categories and we to might curse (though some might welcome) this person, this spirit, this longing, to turn our world upside down (Acts 17:6-7).
As difficult as it might be to imagine these nameless purveyors of infinite Grace, it is all too easy to imagine our response; we could easily imagine, as many of us have already seen, swarms of SWAT teams, mental health professionals, and news reporters who would save us from and dutifully explain to us the inconceivable and disturbing repercussions of such a philosophy on our neighborhoods, our values and certainly our economy.
‘Paying it forward’ is cute on a personal level, but on a large and public scale, it is such a threat that those who attempt it are likely to find themselves in a mental institution, prison or hanging on a cross on the outskirts of town.
What would Jesus do?
The Christ who urged us to cast our bread on the waters and take no thought for tomorrow would certainly find himself as unwelcome and unwanted as ever.
But still, sometimes I wonder…