Jane and I happily arrived in Munster Germany a year ago and were immediately taken by the popularity of cycling as a means of transport.We noted that the wide footpaths actually had cycling lanes and the intersections even had a separately designated light for bicycles. We were set to hire our bikes from the hotel and take off. Within five minutes of departure, while leading the way and heading down the bike lane on the sidewalk, suddenly a police officer loomed up in front of me and called me to stop.
Where was I going? etc etc..
What I hadn’t noticed was that bikes on the sidewalk had to travel in the one direction. For to travel in the direction I was going in, I had to be on the other side of the road. The lane I was in was traveling in the opposite direction. After a stern warning about safety and the possibility of a hefty fine I was let off with a warning.
LAWS AND SOCIETY
Laws are fundamental to any orderly society.We particularly noted it when we recently reflected upon the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. The earliest societies only ever so slowly developed some form of behavioural code. We saw how it took at least a thousand years for the 10 commandments to be produced within the Jewish community after the earliest signs of the communities formation. It’s been an inspirational code and still remains relevant in our own times.
I may have once told you of the time I asked a confirmation class would they change any of the commandments. The only one they didn’t like was not being able to covet. I guess young teenagers were often coveting what other teenagers had. But the rest were good. Our Western society has been built upon the ten commandments. They would appear to carry a universal nature.
The gospel tells us of the man who approached Jesus to ask what must he do to inherit eternal life. Jesus leads him to the basic approach to life with a discussion on the commandments. From the tone of the conversation it becomes apparent that in itself this is not adequate. It is a sound base to start from.
THE GREATER VISION
The story proceeds in a way that is so consistent with so many other teachings of Jesus. The Kingdom requires the renewal of people with a deeper more comprehensive transformation of what might best be called spirit. I want to suggest Jesus is searching for people to get in touch with a passion for spirit. It is no good remaining merely a pale shadow of our potential.
It would seem that the man of the gospel represents the person with a common problem. His passion is to focus on an interest that leads nowhere. Jesus notes his passion for wealth. Energy is being so expended toward his possessions that his sense of identity (and well being) is totally lost in it, so that much of his real person is withering in the inner depths of his mind. He left Jesus very sorrowful.
The kingdom of God requires the free flow of energy from our inner depth
RIVERS OF LIVING WATER
John records Jesus graphic teaching that the spirit can be like a river of living water gushing up from deep within our interior. John Sandford tells the story of his boyhood family home which had a wonderful water well in the backyard. It provided them with crystal clear water year round. Some years later way past when the family had moved he had a chance to revisit the old homestead. His immediate wish was to revisit the well. He learnt it had been covered over some years back but was determined to have it uncovered so that he might re taste the wonderful water. Disappointedly he discovered the well had dried up and offered little more than a muddy pool.
It seems like a powerful illustration of the life of spirit. It increases in its own sense of life giving properties and purity the more it is used. To neglect it leads to its stagnation.
If spirit can be associated with a passion for life, and we are all likely to find this meaning something different for each of us. There is something more that today’s gospel highlights. The story tells us that Peter spoke up for the disciples to suggest that they had given up a great deal for the Kingdom. Jesus affirms that as your passion broadens out to replicate the spirit of God’s purposes that passion becomes more aligned with a broad communal passion.
We could say compassion. Passion with a very broad focus for the good of humanities well-being.
The man of Jesus story found sadness in having to give up his wealth. The sad part of the story is that he thought their was value in material wealth. He could not capture the vision of the wealth of the life of spirit.
This is the call of Jesus and it is the renewal that our world needs.