We don’t get a lot of snow here in music city, but colder and freezing conditions justify the onslaught of the brine used to salt roadways at least a few times each winter. Back in Ohio, it would be at least a weekly event where the wet looking stripes paving each lane of the major roads gave us a two or three day heads-up to winter weather approaching. Because of the frequent use of salt on the roads in Ohio, there was a gas station with a car wash every block near our city. Here in Tennessee, once of the first things we noticed was the scarcity of car washes. A funny thing to notice among all the changes in our new setting, but nonetheless, we came to understand that when your car isn’t totally covered with salt all winter, there isn’t as much of a need. If I don’t notice the dirty film building up on my car right away, there is a feature on my car that let’s me know it’s time for a wash.
Many cars now have a tiny camera on the back to help with backing up, and when my car gets grimy and I put my car in reverse, I feel like my contacts just popped out of my eyes. It’s blurry and hazy and I can’t see where I am heading without the old-fashioned crank of the neck. (Woe to me).
In discussing the upcoming Sunday gospel at prayer group today, the details with which Jesus asks us to adhere to holiness seem insurmountable. In Matthew 5:17-37, Jesus is reminding the disciples that he did not come to abolish the law and make our lives easier. He came to fulfill the law; and he does this by showing us what holiness looks like up close. He goes on to call our attention to every detail in our sin, down to the thought with which it begins. He’s explaining the commandment “You shall not kill” but then goes further to say to us something to the effect of “not only should you not kill, but don’t even think about think about killing” (my version). The exact words are “Whoever is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgement.” Also with committing adultery, he goes and elaborates with “Even if you look at woman with lust you have committed adultery in your heart.” He instructs us further to just go ahead and pluck out your eyes if it’s gonna be that hard for you! What can you do? Call the eye surgeon? Before you do that, let’s consider a few things. Although this passage may feel harsh, or some may say outdated, impossible, or irrational, it doesn’t matter what anyone says…God’s wisdom is far beyond our own, and He had his reasons. Here is what we meditated on after asking the Holy Spirit for help…
In another scripture (Matthew 19:26) Jesus told the crowd that it’s harder for a rich man to get into heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. When the disciples asked how it is even impossible to get in to Heaven, Jesus calmly replies that we don’t make ourselves get to heaven, God does. “With man this is impossible but with God all things are possible.” God’s can do whatever He wants to reach out and help us. He isn’t afraid of a challenge, difficult circumstances or people who get in our way. He is mercy and love and He can make a way for us.
We do have to do our part, however, by keeping our desire and strength up, and loving Our God with all of our heart, mind and strength. We have to stay close to Him in order not to let ourselves fade away, little bits at a time; but by trying and trying AGAIN, and AGAIN, each time more determined to make it…that’s the disposition we need to have for God to work with us.
My feeling is that Jesus is talking about purity of heart in this passage. Am I staying away from things that can soil my filter? Am I placing myself in tempting situations? Like when I am in the kitchen, staring at a cookie jar and I say “Um, not a good idea. You already had one”, and I keep staring and I say “Don’t even think about it. You can’t have another one”, and then I reach my hand in the jar and take one, and now we have a problem. It’s just about not standing there in front of the cookie jar, tempting yourself. He seems to me to be saying, “Do whatever you have to do to remove the possibility of that bad decision from your life.” Get the heck out of the kitchen. Get the heck out of the house. Run from the cookie. Don’t walk. Run. Not easy, but smart (and of course, we know we aren’t really talking about cookies; sometimes it’s donuts.)
Like my car camera with salty film on it, sometimes I just can’t “see” well. Sometimes I have not said my prayers, not made it to the chapel, not done my spiritual reading, and the big one: not sat in silence to start off my day with the assistance that comes from God. These things keep my heart pure, along with surrounding myself with people and images of what is good and pure. When they are absent from my life, even for a short time, that is when the filmy brine covers my little “eye camera” in life, and moving backward or forward or anywhere becomes complicated, and leads to the next small but sure step away from Him. I have to do what I did the other day, and get out of the car and take a little time to clear the film off so the sludge doesn’t mess up my ability to see when I am going to run over a cookie. I mean a curb.