After a nice sabbatical month in which I drove, thought, read, wrote, composed, transcribed, and visited with a lot of great friends, I’m settling back into routines now. (Well, maybe not just yet – still enjoying some special times, including dinner and a minor league baseball game last night with some good friends! Anyhue….)
I’ve recently read Jim Woodroof’s latest book, Famous Sayings of Jesus, which deals in the beatitudes and the parables. This book was given to me by one who has “always appreciated Jim’s Jesus heart.” I have often appreciated said heart, too, and have posted in the past (find one such essay here) on a seminal truth articulated by Jim: “In the gospels we find the power to do what’s in the letters.”
Yes, yes. Seven hundred seventy-seven times, yes. If we are instructed early on to pay attention and obey and do good things (not everyone gets this kind of clear instruction, but I’m not sorry I enjoyed such focus!), then this subsequent message of centering on Jesus is eminently helpful. Often, a child should be taught to do good, right things “just because.” But an adult probably needs deeper motivation, somewhere along the line, and that’s where the gospel accounts come in.
When reading Peter or Paul or James, sometimes the things enjoined on believers seem hard — not only hard to understand, but hard to do. Not even the exceptional ones can put into practice everything they read without question, without struggle.
Into the room of life walks the Central One. The catalyst, the great “enabler” is the Man from Galilee. We are enabled to live out apostolic doctrine by maintaining close contact with recorded aspects, acts, and teachings of the life of Jesus. Abiding in the gospels, we are undeniably, boldly empowered to “do” what’s in the letters.
These words jump off the concluding pages of Woodroof’s Famous Sayings of Jesus:
The Beatitudes are concentrated principles; axioms or propositions which state eternal truths so fundamental to understanding the nature of God’s kingdom that they serve as underpinnings of that kingdom. . . .
Parables, on the other hand, are . . . like a video sent over YouTube; fully fleshed out in 3-D and living color, containing all the details necessary for a full understanding of the message. Parables paint pictures on the mind and leave impressions on the heart.
The words above only paint a partial picture, but it is a vivid one. The impressions left as a result of regular, close brushes with Jesus are the very impressions that give empowering grace for living Christianly.
[to be concluded . . .]