Jesus on the Inside, Working on the Outside

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Beloved in Christ Jesus:

Through the years my appreciation for keeping time with the “Christian Calendar” has grown. As a result, I believe I have grown. Lent is here. Ash Wednesday is one of those points in Christian time keeping that has always been significant to me. Like many of you, I have experienced this as a time to give up something for the sake of the greater good of walking more closely with Jesus Christ. Often this has had a strong personal focus. But deep within, I know and have always known that we cannot really live more deeply in God apart from deepening relationship with our neighbors. Matters of the heart, so to speak, never remain completely inward. In reality, if they do, they remain underdeveloped. The inner and outer must connect. To put it in the parlance of our tradition, it is about the organic connection of personal and social holiness.

In reading the texts for Ash Wednesday (Joel 2:1-2, 12-17, Isaiah 58:1-12,  Psalm 51:1-17, 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21), I was struck by this connection. This is especially true for me in the Joel and Isaiah readings. Any specific practices we maintain, put aside or take up in this season ought to hold the creative tension of the inner and outer. Wherever we begin (inner or outer), these must nourish one another. Repentance  of the heart needs to find outer expression. An inner (heart) commitment to Jesus Christ and the Christian life can only flourish if there is an outer expression in relationship with the neighbor and the created order.

In these times when we are witnesses to daily outrages against our shared humanity, the inner and the outer need to connect. I do not know the faith commitments (or not) of those who are desecrating the sacred space of our Jewish brothers and sisters or who cry aloud “get out of my country.” I could go on. Suffice it to say, if any of these perpetrators claim the Christian faith, there is clearly a lack of alignment with the Jesus I know. Lest we think that we are in the clear or are innocent because we do not commit such acts, I say not so fast. Perhaps the repentance and fruit of repentance we need is to cry out our sorrow for failing to clear our moral throats and then choose to actively participate, in the name of Jesus, in building a world of justice, love and peace.

There is a little song I remember hearing and singing occasionally when I was younger that speaks to the connection and congruence that I believe we are called to. It gets at the creative relationship between inner and outer. It is entitled "Jesus on the Inside." It is a simple song with a few words that are repeated. But it packs an important invitation to conversion and congruence. I hope as this piece ends, this song will give us a way to sing and pray our way forward on this journey of death and resurrection.

Jesus on the inside
Working on the outside
Oh what a change in my life
Jesus on the inside
Working on the outside
Oh what a change in my life
Jesus on the inside
Working on the outside

Yours in Christ Jesus,

 

 

+Gregory V. Palmer