Opening an old book is like opening a treasure chest. When it comes to old non-fiction, it’s like stepping back in time to see what someone had to say and how they said. It may be something we have culturally forgotten.
I went back 87 years the other day to Ernest Ward Burch’s The Ethical Teaching of the Gospels, published in 1925. Here are some of his words, coupled with my passing thoughts and prayers:
“Jesus was more than a teacher of morals. He was a moral leader. Men who committed his teaching to writing and at the same time revealed their impressions of his personality assure their readers that the man was indeed the message.” (13)
Today we quote Jesus’ words, but our thoughts also are captured by the images painted by the gospel writers. We can visualize Jesus healing countless people, confronting the woman at the well, tossing the money changers from the temple, weeping over a friend’s death, and hanging on a cross. There is a great lesson hear for those who speak much about God.May our lives proclaim the same message.
“The power to produce an ethical behavior of effective and constructive standard is the spirit of a man, itself under the power of a controlling force other than the man himself but closely identified with him.” (121, referring to Matthew 15)
The will of the Father guided Jesus, but we struggle to give over our wills to the Father. May we be more closely identified with the Holy Other.
“The moral thought of Jesus was not cast into any system. His was not the type of mind that delights in logical refinements, but, rather, he is seen to be a social prophet, busy in shepherding the neglected and in encouraging the poor and the disheartened. …
“The moral principles of Jesus have sometimes been systematized by later writers, but he himself appears in the Gospels to be the minister of all, whose eye was clear for the discernment of any need that was buttressed by faith, whose ear was attentive to the sigh of discouragement and to the faint cry for help. Jesus was, it may be, the poet of the waving wheat, of the rippling wave, of the lily of the field, of the falling sparrow, whose tragedy was not lost upon his Father, and of the glistening raindrop or the shining sun, which betokened to him the generous provision of God for his enemies as well as his friends. But the mind of Jesus was not that of the systematic teacher.” (233-234)
And in those words Burch uses the English language in a beautiful refrain that often is missing from more contemporary writers. May we also have clear eyes for the discernment of need and have attentive ears to the sighs of discouragement and to the faint cries for help.
Jesus is the poet of our lives, speaking beauty into the ugly and magnificence into the mundane. May we allow the Divine Poet to speak through us, as well.