Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: Mother Teresa

Jesus Said: More Jesus, Less You

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you, there is more of God and his rule.” (Matthew 5:3, The Message)

The bus’ tires left the smooth pavement and hit dirt and rocks. As the bus jolted down the road, the road got narrower and narrower. After turning tight corners and dodging huge rocks, we arrived at our destination. The small, leaning building was a church in the midst of a shantytown in Costa Rica.

As we drove past the homes that were constructed with random pieces of lumber and corrugated tin, I realized that I was not in Kansas (or Virginia) anymore. As the children ran barefoot along the bus to welcome us and out of curiosity, I knew that whatever my first world problems were, they didn’t compare to the lives of these in this shantytown.

I imagined the words of Mother Teresa as she escorted visitors down her streets of Calcutta:

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Follow That Star

Follow That Star - Wise MenMatthew’s Gospel rounds out the birth narrative of Jesus with the visit of the magi (Matthew 2:1-12). The magi, most often depicted and sung about as the Three Wise Men, travel from afar following the brilliant star in the sky. These studiers of stars knew there was something special about the star and what – or who – it pointed to.

We think of them as three Wise Men, because of the three gifts they bring. These gifts tell us a little bit about who Jesus is. Gold for a King, frankincense for a Priest, and myrrh used for preparing a body for burial. Gold because Jesus is King. Frankincense because Jesus is the High Priest. But myrrh? Imagine the look on Mary and Joseph’s faces when these travelers from the east laid out myrrh. A symbol of death. Jesus will die, so that we may live.

As far as the 12 verses in Matthew tell us, we do not know how much the magi knew about Jesus. Was it faith or was it curiosity that started them on this journey? Many a preacher, theologian, and blogger has told us that the magi had great faith to trek across the desert in search of the King. But I would like to think that some curiosity was involved too.

Curiosity includes being an explorer, an investigator, and a willingness to learn. Curiosity begins with questions. What if . . . .The more we invest in our faith, the more questions we will have. The more we will wonder about Truth.

These are not questions that should be set aside on the shelf as we continue to have faith in the mystery. It’s okay to be curious about the mystery. It’s okay to explore faith. It’s okay to investigate faith. It’s super okay to be willing to learn more.

Remember the saying, “Curiosity killed the cat?” The statement implies that if we are too curious we will die. I remember as a kid watching our cat Midnight on summer days explore parts of the yard and the woods. Cats are naturally curious. But curiosity did not kill Midnight. She exceeded her nine lives and lived a good, healthy life.

We can too. We can have a healthy faith life while having some curiosity. But there are those in the church who will caution us that if we get too curious we will die. Why? Maybe out of fear that our explorations will reveal the ugly truths. Maybe they are concerned that we will explore ourselves out of the church. And these are valid and wonderful concerns.

Christian Piatt notes that for some “it feels rootless.” It is just too radical to go outside the lines. But some of the greatest radicals have changed the face of Christianity. St. Francis of Assisi. Catherine of Sienna. Martin Luther. John Wesley. Mother Teresa.

They were curious about faith and did so without being uprooted.

We preach and teach to follow Jesus. But do we have enough curiosity to follow that Light? Do we always welcome the questions? Do our churches, small groups, or youth groups, create spaces to be curious?

Jesus Said: Open Your Eyes

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world – your mind and heart – put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. (Matthew 5:8, The Message)

In the film, The Ron Clark Story (2006), Matthew Perry plays native North Carolinian teacher Ron Clark who moves to New York City to teach elementary school.  Clark learns quickly that the inner city school system is very different from that in small-town North Carolina.  But Clark also learns that the inner city kids need the same love that the small town kids do.

United Methodist minister James Howell reminds us that “many great teachers and heroes, from Gregory of Nyssa in the fourth century to Mother Teresa in the twentieth have taught us that we ‘see God’ in what is not at all invisible: in our neighbor.”

When we truly see our neighbor for who they are, we see God.

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