This note has been a long time coming, but as we approach a new year, I’m tying together some loose ends, and this is one of them.
If Easter is about anything, it’s about being set free. And if Christmas is about anything, it’s about the divine showing up unexpectedly with possibilities for new life.
This past Easter gave me the freedom to change directions, and now with Christmas, some of those in utero possibilities of the past months have been born.
So, with appreciation for all those who have read and responded to my writing here over the past couple years, I’m making it official that the Scarlet Letter Bible project is, for the time being, closed.
Take the day lilies, for instance. They don’t put in overtime or work themselves to death. But not even Donald Trump, with his vast fortunes, has any chance of looking as good as they do. They bloom only for a day, and the next day they’re just fire starter. It’s no great leap of faith to see that if God cares for them, God cares for you.
With this, Jesus says that working hard to get ahead is a waste of time. Not working hard, mind you, but working hard to get ahead.
Wealth, and anything that wealth can get us, is a mirage. Temporary. Transient. As the Buddhists might say, impermanent. Striving after these things is bound just to make us old before our time (and worth nothing but fire starter), to burn us out.
Neither is there any use wearing ourselves and God out by praying for wealth. In spite of what you might hear from the likes of Joel Osteen or Creflo Dollar, wealth is not a measure of God’s blessing. Never has been, never will be.
Instead, Jesus’ says, God cares for you. Now that you don’t have to work to prove how much better-off you are, you’re free to do what’s really important.
“I’ve introduced you to the earthlings you entrusted to me. They belonged to you. You entrusted them to me. They’ve been true to your calling, and now they know that what’s mine is yours. What you told me, I’ve told them. They’ve taken it to heart, and they know that I derive from you, that you sent me.
“I’m asking for their sake. Not the world’s sake, but for those who belong to you, who you’ve entrusted to me. They’re mine and yours, yours and mine. They’ve done me proud. Now that I’m no longer able to stay on earth, but since I’m coming to you and they must stay behind, I’m asking that you protect them. Make them as much a part of each other as I am a part of you.
“While I was with them, I protected them on your behalf. I guarded them so nobody was lost – except one, and he was a hopeless case – and in doing so I fulfilled the prophesy.
“But now, I’m coming to you, and I say these things before I go so they may rejoice in each other. I gave them your instruction, and the world hates them. They’re outcasts, just like me. I’m not asking you to exempt them from trouble, but to protect them from evil. They’re outcasts, just like me. Rededicate them to the truth. Tell them the truth. Just as you sent me to the world, I send them to the world. For their sake, I rededicate myself now, so they may also be rededicated to the truth.”
This is Jesus’ last will and testament.
But instead of dividing his earthly belongings among his followers, Jesus gives them each other. And he gives them his blessing: “You’ve done me proud, now the world’s a tough place, so stick together.”
It’s all he has to give. And it’s all that really matters. In John’s understanding of Jesus, the divine word of God made flesh, the only way to see God is in the commitment to be true to the person enfleshed with you in community. The only way to experience the joy of the divine is by rejoicing in one another. The only way to get to the truth is to find it in one’s neighbor. Even one’s own health and safety depends on the well-being of the other who stands in your presence.
As Jesus and God are connected, so is all of life. It’s the Om of Jesus.