The New Dispensation requires, first, that we let go of the old. For all its lofty words and grand displays of piety, even its good works and social conscience, old time religion has become a dry husk whose life drained away long ago. The Spirit has left the church, to blow once more across the waters and across the face of the earth, seeking fertile soil for its new seeds and faithful workers to bring in the harvest.
"We have this treasure in earthen vessels," Paul wrote to the Corinthians two thousand years ago. So there's nothing new in saying we humans are incapable of grasping divine things without spoiling them. We are imperfect God-bearers. We mire divine revelation with our fears and needs. We twist its meaning to suit our own egoic purposes. We are not good and faithful servants.
It's our insistence that it is otherwise that gets us into trouble--that we possess the truth, that we are God's special envoys, that the rest of the world is wrong and we are right. We turn the Good News of Divine Love into bad news about judgment and exclusion and shame. We defend our unyielding beliefs and our dogged practices by saying we are being faithful to Scripture, to tradition, and to the Lord himself.
If we could reconcile ourselves to our humanity, living humbly and holding the truths of our religion lightly, rather than with a hammed fist and an unwarranted confidence, then perhaps the deep wisdom of our faith could shine through us. But that's not what we do. We grasp, we boast, we use our religion as a weapon against others, and we choke the life out of it.
The old dispensation has run its course. In its dying days it clutches at its conceits and its certainties more fiercely than ever, like sailors clinging to the mast of a sinking ship, as if it will save them. But Jesus told his followers long ago that the Spirit blows where it wills. Unlike foxes in their holes and birds in their nests there would be no place for them to lay their head. There would be no home, no certainty. There would be only ... faithfulness.
Our calling, as seekers of the New Dispensation, is to pay attention--first, to the rustling of hollow leaves and the howling of empty words; but then to the stirring of a new wind, and the sprouting of new buds. As the church has told us all along, it's about death and resurrection, new life springing from the old. Unless a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it remains but a single grain. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.
Next week: Truths, not Truth