A number of years ago, I stumbled across a blog called Momastery, in which a woman named Glennon Doyle wrote funny, brave, thought-provoking pieces about the spiritual learning to be found in being a mom. Over the years since, Doyle has parlayed that blog into several best-selling books, and used it to plant an organization which creates opportunities to empower women and children, often more effectively than just about anyone else. And so I was glad to learn, during these last strange weeks, that Glennon has been posting daily FB Live chats called Morning Meeting Time. Modeled on her time as a teacher, each session is a warm, gentle, heart-to-heart, beginning with a check-in and continuing with some words of encouragement for people trying to live as whole, creative people in a world which does not make that easy.
At risk of heresy, I could not help reading today’s passage from the Sermon on the Mount without thinking of Morning Meeting Time. No one knows whether Jesus really laid out all those teachings in one session, or whether the evangelists pulled teachings offered over weeks or months into one holistic body, but it has always seemed to me that in this place, Jesus offers us his heart. Not just the heart of his teachings, but the heart of who he is.
And what those teachings show us is a man who is deeply troubled by the gap between the world as it is, and the world as it should be. Jesus starts by naming all the good, broken people: the people who are poor (or poor in spirit); the ones who are humble; the ones who show mercy; the ones who weep; the ones who yearn to be righteous, and to live in a world in which righteousness has a home. He blesses them as the people who already “get it” — whose heart has gone before them into the place where God lives. And yet, as Jesus knows all too well, and will soon show us on the Cross, this world is not an easy home for people like that.
And so Jesus’ words of blessing end with some encouragement for those who act with integrity, and pay the price. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.” (Matt 5: 11-12) And then he continues: Let your light shine. Let your shine not because it will be welcome, but because this world can be a dark place. Let your light shine because your light is needed, because God created you to bear that light. Let your light shine, because without it, this world is a poor and sorry place.
For me, and I think for many of us, one of the primary challenges in this time of sequestration has been exactly this: how to do good, when our own activities are so circumscribed. And yet, after the first few weeks of appalled silence, I have been seeing so many people tap their creativity to do just that. They are sewing masks for friends and strangers, cooking meals for the people with whom they live. They are sharing writing and art and video reflections, and drawing rainbows and putting them in their windows. They are clapping for healthcare workers and advocating for better pay for essential workers and showing up day after grim day in hospital wards and senior homes. And each gesture may not feel like doing much, but when they are combined, they become a mighty stream. A stream of joy, mercy, compassion, and hope — pushing this world toward what we yearn for it to be, one small act at a time.
— Deborah Meister