There is a story we live by that has been told so many times it has grown stale.
Worse than that, it’s been told so many times, it has grown. A lot. Monumentally. Like a game of telephone, in which each hearer enlarges the tale.
But it is not only growing bigger in size or in strength, it’s growing in heft, and in hubris.
It is a story that starts off with great power and resonates with all who hear it. There is, or was, something powerful about it, something universal. It was a call to greatness, and a call to love. It was a call to serve and a call to lose one’s self in that service.
But over time, it has become both easier to buy into, and harder to believe; it became larger, but also more lethargic; less dynamic, and more demeaning.
But it is a story worth going back and telling, from the beginning. Before the game of telephone and other games took over the story.
It really is time to retell the story.
And here’s the start of it: God lives.
God doesn't live “up there” on a mountaintop. Or in the clouds, or beyond the clouds, where there is only space, and the universe. God lives above and beyond the universe, and also right here, within our hearts. God lives in another, spiritual dimension, which our science cannot measure or quantify, but each human can visit instantly and know for certain that it, and the God Who created it, and all of us, resides.
And this God is Just, and Pure, and Perfect. This God is Loving and Kind and the Creator of the Universe.
This God is Eternal, and Spirit and All-Knowing.
And this God is Within us, Among us and, perhaps most importantly, is FOR us.
And this God, the God whom the ancient Israelites served, and loved and worshiped, is our God. This God of Moses and the Prophets and us – this God is a God worthy of Worship and Praise, and has made this known in His Creation and to His people.
And in the early days of the Roman Empire, lived a man in the Roman province of Judea.
You may not have ever really met this man, this man of flesh, blood and bones; sweat, tears and hunger. He had a father and a mother, and brothers and sisters. He was well known to his neighbors. And was inquisitive and wise from a young age.
This man, Joshua, was early on interested in learning, and God took notice of this man, and when he had reached adulthood, this man, whom the world knows now as Jesus, stepped into the waters of the Jordan River.
And as he was baptized, his God, and our God, the God Who created the universe, said, “You are my well-loved Son, in whom I am well pleased. This day, I have given birth to you.” And the spirit of God rested on him, and he stood, and began his ministry, speaking words that would change the world.
Jesus began his ministry preaching a Good and Beneficial message to the poor, and to the spiritual blind and to the sick, and to those in need of repentance from their evil deeds.
He said we must stop sinning and serving the Self, and turn instead to God, and begin seeking (and doing) Righteousness, serving God and obeying God’s commands.
Jesus said we were to be as loving as God. Not the mild love we give our favorite candy, and not a sexual, erotic kind of love. It is not even the kind of love who show to those who love us back.
We are, said Jesus, to love God purely, with every fiber of our being, all of our souls and minds and every bit of our strength.
Jesus said we are to love also our neighbors, and do so just EXACTLY as we love ourselves.
And “neighbor” is to include everyone with whom we come in contact: our next door neighbors, our co-workers, our friends. And also those we see in trouble on the side of the road, those who are hungry, sick, in prison, in need of shelter and clothing, those who don’t know they are in trouble yet.
And not only that, this Jesus said we are to love even our ENEMIES: Those who oppress us, those who hurt us, those who force us to do things we don’t like to do, like carrying their burden twice as far, and giving up not only our jackets but our shirts.
And Jesus said we were to become as merciful as God is merciful. We were to forgive others if we were to expect any forgiveness from God. But that forgiveness from God would indeed come to us, and forgive us when we fell short of these amazing goals.
And because of God’s mercy, Jesus challenged us to become morally Perfect, just as God is morally Perfect. And we must not serve money, wealth, power or other distractions in the place of God as we seek this Perfection.
And here’s the kicker – Jesus was challenging us not to tease us, not to tell us we can’t do it, not to mock us, but because HE KNEW WE COULD DO IT.
Why? Because he did it. He achieved Righteousness in his own life, was thus favored by God, and was sent out into the world to preach Righteousness, challenging others to make him an example of how we are to live our lives in a Godly way.
Some called him crazy. Even his own family doubted his sanity at times. The religious leaders of his day? They REALLY doubted him, questioned him, and hated him.
Accused by them of seeking to be God’s equal in all things, he scoffed, saying no one is “Good” like that, except God.
And yet, this life of Jesus was like a clear glass by which we can “see” God CLEARLY, not dimly, and by him, we how God wishes us to live.
He went willingly to death at the hands of those religious leaders. And when asked why, the answer was not mysterious, but it fit his ministry’s message: There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. We are his friends, he said, if we do what he commanded us to do. Pure, simple, Love.
Jesus challenged us to become as good as God. Not that we could become the Creator of the World, or all-seeing, or present at all places in the universe at once. But so that we become MORALLY as Good as God, and in doing so, both please God and also have rich, fulfilling lives on earth, and, if is God’s will, to live in God’s presence forever after we are done living.
Let us pick up that challenge.