The fifth leg of the stool

April 14, 2006

Original Post Date: 4/14/2006

Sitting in our customary three-hour Good Friday service today, I was, as usual moved.  I felt somehow like lately this Lent I have missed the point.

Following in Susan Russell's call to "keep Epiphing" through Lent, right up to the end I did just that.  I realized, sitting there, listening to the crucifiction story, pondering the broken-ness of my life and of the world around me, that Richard Hooker's three and sometimes four-legged Anglican stool really misses the boat for me.

Jesus didn't die on the cross so that we could reason better, one with another.

Jesus didn't die on the cross because of tradition.

Jesus didn't die on the cross in order to fufill scripture, although that was a nice by-product.

Jesus didn't die on the cross in order to gain experience– I'm sure it is an experience he would have liked to have avoided.

Jesus died on the cross for love. 

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…"  John 3:16a

Maybe we need a fifth leg of the stool?

Without the love of Jesus, reason does us no good.  We can talk, debate, and discuss all we want, but the premise of all those discussions, the underlying foundation has to be the inclusive love of God or it is for naught.  Logic and reason do not lead to singular outcomes and also do not factor in the "human-ness"- the compassion- of situations and issues, and so we need love to "tilt" us in the right direction.

Without the love of Jesus, tradition is meaningless.  We can go to worship week after week, but without love as our foundation it is superficial.  It cannot give us what we need; we won't be empowered to take the action required of us as disciples of Christ.

Without the love of Jesus, Scripture is just words.  We can read but not discern.  We can wander but not find a path.  We can listen but not hear.

Without the love of Jesus, experience is but a memory;  faint and distant, too remote to use in our spiritual practice.  It is love that keeps the memories of our communal experience alive, the pains of our communal failings deep-felt so that we remedy and do not repeat them (hopefully).  It is love that binds us and holds us together so that our shared experience makes us the Body of Christ.

On second thought, maybe love isn't the fifth leg of the stool.  Maybe love is the seat of the stool, holding all the other legs together.  It keeps them firm and solidly in place so that no leg may fall, and holds us up steadily as we rest our weary feet.

May the love of God which passes all understanding be with you, your families, and all of us on this day of Christ's sacrifice.


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