A couple weeks ago, I was reading Nora Gallagher’s new book, Moonlight Sonata at the Mayo Clinic, which describes the faith crisis Gallagher went through while undergoing treatment for a mysterious illness. Because Gallagher has been an important for me as a model of faithful questioning, I was interested to read that she experienced a gap between Jesus, the man we read about in the Gospels — the healer, the provocateur, the teller of tales — and Jesus, as he is often presented in our worship. She writes,
Following Jesus was meant to be an ongoing movement, not a creed, not a wall of set-in-stone words. A place where practices, like prayer, like meditation, were taught; where stories and memories, largely about vulnerability and suffering, were collected and shared. The body’s pain and suffering were meant to be part of this whole:…[Jesus] was, at the heart of his ministry, a healer. And the stories of his followers were meant to be taken seriously, to become part of the larger ongoing Story. A river of stories, joining the sea. The living stories of a faith’s followers are what keep it alive.
I think Gallagher misses the boat a bit here, because while I agree with everything she has said, she has left out something essential: Jesus’ call to acts of compassion, to help for the least of these, however you want to measure that, the very work she used to do at her parish’s soup kitchen, day after day. But there is also a lot that is worth pondering in what she writes.
How do we, how do you, connect the simplicity and directness of Jesus with the mighty beauty of our worship? We pour the best of what we have at the feet of Jesus, but in his own lifetime, only one person did that for him. Where do you go to find that human face of God? Which stories about Jesus touch you where you live, and how do you make them part of your stories? What stories from your own life do you wish you could share and weave into a new gospel, a new telling of God’s love?