From the Very Rev. Kristina Maulden
Like broken memories of many a heart
Woven into one; to which no firm assurance,
So wild were they, could her own faith impart.
Broken or forgotten memories. Diana Butler Bass makes the case that the Christian Church is experiencing spiritual amnesia. We have forgotten our origins and history, among other things. If we go back to the beginning and look again at Jesus, we are reminded of what has been forgotten. But why the spiritual amnesia? Looking back means we have to look at our past as a church. And the church as a whole has wonderful and terrible moments. When it comes to Western Christianity, we don’t have to look too hard to make a list of the terrible things. The Inquisition might come to mind immediately. Christianity, like other religions, has been used as a rational for war or conquest. But, while we may remember the dark side of our past, we forget the beautiful.
We have forgotten the beauty of those who led lives of self sacrifice and love for neighbor. And there have been many, many people who tried their utmost to be faithful to Jesus. Their lives were transformed by grace even in the midst of chaos or disaster. Early Christians were known as people of The Way. This is how Diana Butler Bass describes this “way”:
Throughout the first five centuries people understood Christianity primarily as a way of life in the present, not as a doctrinal system, esoteric belief, or promise of eternal salvation. By followers enacting Jesus’s teachings, Christianity changed and improved the lives of its adherents and served as a practical spiritual pathway. This way—and earliest Christians were called “the people of the Way”—bettered existence for countless ancient believers. . . .
As we journey through Lent, we should look backward to the time of the early Church. There is strength and hope for our lives and for our faith. We should also spend time within the pages of Scripture. Scripture still is our best resource for hearing again the words of Jesus. In particular, look to the two commandments that he gave.
In Mark 12:28-34, an unnamed questioner asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the first of all?” and Jesus responded with what is now called the Great Command: “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Loving God and neighbor was, according to Jesus, the way of the Kingdom of God and the path of salvation. In the account of this teaching in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus adds, “do this, and you will live” (Luke 10:28). . . .
I hope that the very best of the story is yet to come, in our time and in our communities. For the sake of the present and of the future, spend a little time looking back.