My friend Bill died recently. A brilliant scholar, he had suffered a number of strokes, and was being cared for in a facility that catered to patients with dementia and brain injuries. He decided that it was time to let nature take its course. He refused most food and medications, and died in short order, but he died fully confident in the resurrection life that lay ahead.
A few weeks later I was in the ER with a man in his mid-to-late nineties who had also suffered from a number of strokes.
Loving the people I don’t like. That was my Lenten discipline last year, and it is again. I’ve not made much progress in the last 12 months. It started with some prayerful reflection on what it means to love God and neighbor as the most important part of fulfilling the deepest intention of the law. Neighbors are not always easy to love, especially if you don’t like them. The generalized Christian claim that “I love everybody” just doesn’t cut it.
I was in a museum not long ago gazing at a painting of Jesus washing Peter’s feet, a familiar scene to most of us, and wondering why it seemed very wrong. What was wrong was that Jesus was pictured as a mature but young man while Peter was very old and gray. We forget that, if Jesus was in his early thirties, it is likely that his disciples were no older and probably younger by several years.
Page down Facebook until you come to the inevitable shot of a group of young adults in their mid-to-late twenties having a good time, and that’s more like it.
How important is a personal relationship with Jesus? Some of my evangelical friends define Christianity as a personal relationship with Jesus. Everything else is adiaphora, except maybe the worship leading praise band. Even some of my Episcopalian colleagues argue that a personal relationship with Jesus should be the aim of growth in Christian faith. My problem is that I don’t know what a personal relationship with Jesus is.