Thursday, February 10, 2011

the very spirit of Christ...

Brooke Herford continues his sermon "The Small End of Great Problems"

"In morals too — questions of right and duty — the modern world is becoming familiar with this principle of taking hold of problems by their small near end. I think that this is largely due to Christianity. For, if you look into it, you will see that this is the very spirit of Christ, both in regard to the simplest matters of doing right and the most complicated problems of Christian thought. Christ did not indeed speak of "problems" or of taking hold of them at this nearer end. But he was always doing it, and teaching men to do it. The beginning of the Kingdom of God, he shews is as small as a mustard seed. The place to grapple with sin, is not at the circumference of action, but at the centre of thought. It had been said by them of old time "Thou shalt not kill." Christ puts it — " You must take hold of that matter at a smaller end than that — you must not even be angry." The angry feeling he puts as the smaller end of the murderous deed. So with all moral questions. Christ brought the right and wrong of things down from the clouds to the earth, from the traditions of the Rabbis to the common sense of the common people. They were working out their Sabbath law by abstract theorising from some supposed Divine Will in the beginning of Creation, —" The Sabbath was made for man," said Jesus, and brought the question down to what is good for you and me to-day. So, that golden summing up of duty — "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them " — that was not a maxim of mutual axe-grinding, but the bringing of the great problem of righteousness to its smallest end, just where it touches me and my neighbour. And so of deeper questions. Some one asked him "Lord, are there few that be saved?" Why, that was just one of those problems which at the larger end cover the whole vista of Eternity. But Christ would not even touch it at that larger end. Simply — "Strive thou to enter in at the strait gate " — just the small personal end of that great problem. And what a helpful saying that is for those who are perplexing themselves over large abstract religious questions — "If a man will do God's will, he shall know of the doctrine." Do the best you can — just do that; begin with the small near thing where you can see it, and the way will clear, the larger principle or doctrine will open out to you.

There is the marvellous thing in Christ — his mighty opening of man's thought to the Divine surroundings and infinities of life — while yet constantly bringing men down to the common things close about them as the way to that Divine. Often men would like to stay up in the cloudlands of Divine mystery — but Christianity won't let them. It keeps bringing them back to the work and the neighbour and the little child. Christianity is doing this to-day. It is just this which is making society impatient of mere abstruse creeds, which is making the churches crave less of the Apocalypse and more of the Sermon on the Mount; and which so is making them less divided in their interpretations of the Heavenly Mysteries and more united in trying at this nearer end of things to make this common world a more wholesome, honest, and happier place."

Blessings

2 comments:

David G. Markham said...

Brooke Herford has an interesting take on this issue of what's instructive and informative about how one should lead his/her life.

His idea about the small tail, the local knowledge as the postmoderns talk about it as compared to the broader discourse.

UU focuses, in its fourth principle, on the free and responsible search for truth and meaning not compliance with some creed. This is what Jesus is sayin I think. "Pay attention to your life. Be mindful about your own emotional and cognitive functioning and you wil more like find you way to the Kingdom.

The Buddhist idea of mindfulness is gaining much popularity because it asks a person to reflect on one's own functioning and learn from it. This, I think I what Jesus is saying, and what Brooke is trying to point out.

I am interested in developing a "listening ministry" which will focus on helping people express their "Life stories". It is in this local knowledge that the spirit truly lives not in some musty text.

Love ya, BU. thanks

boston unitarian said...

Amen David. I, too, thought of "mindfulness" in reading this sermon- it is the fundamental spiritual practice upon which all else is built.
Many blessings to you in your work. BU