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THE RULES
October 10, 2003
 
Friday's eMo is always a meditation on the lectionary readings for the upcoming Sunday. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution. No further permission if necessary.

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"A man ran up to Jesus and knelt before Him and asked, Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said to him, 'Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.' "

He had done all the right things -- or, rather, refrained from doing a lot of the wrong things. And he was good to his parents. Of course, it was in his interest to be nice to them. That's where his inheritance would come from.

But even though he was pretty sure of his righteousness under the law -- he could read it as well as anybody else -- something seems to have tugged at the sleeve of the rich young man with enough insistence to cause him to seek out the rabbi whose teaching was attracting so much attention. He had already inherited so much. What must he do to inherit eternal life?

The exchange between Jesus and the rich young man -- who wants obeying the rules to be what righteousness is all about -- is as fresh today as if it we were hearing it for the first time. What are we going to be: a clump of holy people, fascinated with our own purity, whose primary task is rooting out sinners from among us so we can remain clean? Suspicious of wisdom that we did not invent? Unable to allow the God who says "Behold, I am doing a new thing" to actually do anything new?

Adult righteousness usually requires courage and discernment. Rarely is it merely a matter of simply obeying the rules. While a complete inability to follow directions is not in itself a sign of righteousness -- a common misconception among people who just cannot play well with others -- it is nonetheless true that some kind of disobedience has formed an important part of most serious movements for human justice. When it is the status quo that needs fixing, working entirely within its categories alone ordinarily will not be enough to reform it. Sometimes you just have to color outside the lines.

So who gets to decide? And how? When does an action arise from a thirst for righteousness and when is it simply sin?

The who is us. All of us. People who won't talk to each other should start, -- talk, not yell. You can't be part of us if you won't be. We don't all have to be alike in the conclusions we draw about imnportant matters, but we all have the right to them.

The process through which we now walk with such pain is how. The pain is part of the discernment. So is the watching: what will we do now? And now? And what will God do with what we have done? Pay attention, and listen. It will be revealed.
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Check out www.geraniumfarm.org today for news:
+ how to order Barbara Crafton's new audio book, "Some Things
You Just Have to Live With: Musings on Middle Age," read by the
author, now in cassette or Cd
+how to sign up for Group Spiritual Direction at The Hospital
Chaplaincy in New York
+information about retreats for early 2004 in other parts of the
country
+today's Out of Nowhere essay from southern sage and jazz
musician Lane Denson
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