Shared humanity?

"He too shared in their humanity."--Hebrews 2:14

This is the common thread I seized upon in today's lectionary readings. He too shared in our humanity and can thus understand what it is to be in the simultaneously vulnerable and powerful position that is humanity.

Perhaps it is forced, but this is what jumped out at my from the passages (besides the fact that to this pragmatic Mennonite, the occasional verse in a psalm is beautiful and touching, but most of that content is bewilderingly melodramatic).

Psalm 41 goes off on a strange rant, but starts in a surprising but instructive manner: "Blessed are those who have regard for the weak." It goes on to promise them all kinds of good things, which I suppose also speaks to the human condition. We need to be instructed to look out for those not ourselves and our loved ones...and it helps to promise some kind of reward. Instant blessings, however, are belied by the very next paragraph where the psalmist pleads for mercy, afflicted and scorned, but trusting God in the end.

"Praise be to the God is Israel," it ends. But I keep circling back to the beginning: "blessed are those who have regard for the weak." Not as easy as it sounds, even when you've been there. Thanks for the reminder.

The Deuteronomy passage seems to have some circular logic, but maybe that's a translation problem ("be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God...Otherwise, will forget the LORD your God"). Again, I read this thinking however you want to attribute these words (falling directly from the mouth of God or mediated by the culture and perspective of the writer), somebody in this picture knows something of human inclinations. "When you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God" (8:12-14). How quickly we forget our gratefulness when things are going well. How quickly we forget the bitter blessing of needing help from others when it seems possible to do everything on our own. How quickly we forget what it's like to be outside the circle once we've joined the inner ranks. "But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth" (vs 18).

"For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants" Hebrews 2:16. Having grown up in a mainly evangelical context, I'm always jarred when New Testament writers make such off-hand, matter-of-fact references to angels. With the exception of our brief period of being enamored with Frank Peretti's Piercing the Darkness, we prefer to pretend angels don't exist. Those "spooky new-age folk" and "peculiar Catholics" who refer to angels are obviously theologically deluded. But these kind of random angel reference remind me though I really don't know enough about some other presentations of angels to judge whether their cherry picking of verses is sufficient to justify them as "biblical," but I do feel comfortable suggesting evangelicals give angels another look.

However, all of that is completely tangential to the passage, which is about Jesus calling us brothers and sisters. Jesus being able to understand our condition, having been there himself. Jesus having not merely demonstrated mastery over death by triumphing over it, but also showing compassion to humans by living out the great crosscultural adage of "walking a mile in our shoes/sandals/moccasins/flipflops/Manolos." Whereas the resurrection inspires awe, gratefulness, and respect, Jesus' earthly life inspires love and the possibility of relationship.

And because he is a person, not a book; a story, not a set of rules, there are all kinds of puzzling pieces to keep us off-guard. What exactly are we supposed to take from the wedding at Cana story? Jesus' mother wheedles him into doing something he doesn't seem to want to do. His actions seem to promote, or at least condone public drunkenness, to say nothing of saving the cheapskate's reputation from the trashcan. What a bizarre "first of the signs through which he revealed his glory" (John 2:11)!

"He too shared in their humanity." There isn't much we can say he couldn't possible understand. What do we do to understand -- and obey -- what he asks of us?


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