KISS My strange heading has actually nothing to do with amorous expressions of affection. What do you make of this: Let an honourable, exalted and prosperous state of notoriety be attributed to the male parent figure accruing also to His immediate descendant in the male line and to the sanctified non-corporeal entity. In such manner as was circumstantial at the initialisation, is contemporaneous with our terrestrial experience period and is due to continue interminably; cessation of the totality of trans-temporal existence being unforeseen. It might be hard to recognise this as the Gloria Patri – Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.
It’s really a bit of a joke isn’t it? By using a Thesaurus and choosing the most long-winded and obscure words something like that can be made almost meaningless. It's often found in the sort of language sometimes referred to as bureaucratese; the kind of thing Churchill criticised in a marginal note as “the sort of language up with which I will not put”. It overcomplicates the simple, obscuring meaning. Yet I think we often treat our faith and our Christian lives like that. We overcomplicate things, overthink situations and make things difficult. Hence my title KISS, which stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid! People can get very tied up in how to live the Christian life and make difficulties which are not really necessary. Have you ever found yourself feeling guilty because you do not read the bible often enough? Or wish you could find more time to pray? Maybe you envy those who seem able to do lots of good works. Perhaps you worry that you don’t do enough for refugees, homeless, all those who continually need help.
In this troubled world there so many areas where you might find yourself filled with concern and feeling inadequate to do anything useful. Well, maybe you are looking too much at what you think you should be doing, and not looking enough at what God can do for you. If we trust in God and what he can do for us and in the love he has for us then life can be a great deal simpler. An old Chinese proverb tells the story of a fox that was captured by a tiger. The fox said, "You can't eat me because the gods have made me the leader of all the animals." The tiger did not believe him, but the fox said, "Follow me and see if any animal challenges me." The tiger agreed to this and followed directly behind the fox as the fox began his walk through the forest. To the tiger's amazement it turned out to be exactly as the fox had said. Not a single animal they encountered challenged the fox. Indeed every animal they met fled in sheer panic. After several such encounters the tiger finally agreed that the fox was the leader of all the animals and let him go.
You can see the point of the story; it’s simple to overcome obstacles if you have a tiger behind you. It is God, walking with us, who overcomes what is overwhelming. That should make life a great deal simpler for us, so why, in normal times, do we complicate our lives so much? Maybe our idea of God is incorrect; we tend to think that God is a very complex being far distant above us in sophistication and thought. Might it actually be the reverse; that God is really very simple? Not far above us but far beneath us; far simpler than we can possibly imagine? A God whose whole being is defined by love and who acts in the simplest possible way out of that love in every situation. So that when we think of being God-like it is not a matter of adding things, complicating, but of getting rid of things, simplifying. But these are not normal times, we are living out lives in lock-down, in greater or lesser degrees of isolation. Perhaps these unusual times present an opportunity to look to simplify; actually we are quite a bit compelled to do so anyway. So this might be a time to make a virtue of necessity. Some psychiatrists suggest that there are only four honest emotions, and these are all associated with physical responses. In fact when you think about them they seem to be located in specific parts of our bodies.
Suppose I ask you where you feel anger? Probably in your shoulders and neck, in the tensing of muscles best felt there. What about fear? butterflies and sinking feelings in the stomach come to mind. Sadness we generally say we feel in our chests – in our hearts, we get heavy-hearted. And joy is a wonderful fizzing and bubbling in every part of our bodies. The four honest emotions. But where do we feel guilt? Or worry? Or envy? Where does wishing take place? Only in the mind. These emotions are made up in our heads, they are not honest expressions of real needs and situations but the imaginings of our thoughts. These emotions complicate the way we live our lives, they get in the way of honest relationships. Would our lives not be simpler if we were able to live, as the apostle John continually reminds us, in love with each other? Hasn’t Jesus told us that all the practicalities of life are summed up in the phrase: “love your neighbour as yourself”. Look at the life of Jesus. He lived life to the full and he expressed his emotions openly and directly. But those emotions were the honest ones. He could be angry, frightened, grieving and joyful.
But I challenge you to find a single passage of the Gospels where our Lord was envious; where he was jealous; where he exhibited guilt; where he showed hate. He lived a very simple life. Yet in Jesus we see a life lived in abundance, but without all the useless emotional baggage which we insist on trailing around behind us. If we were able to follow his example perfectly we should be able to ditch that baggage and instead have a tiger right behind us. How simple our lives would be. Yet it seems to be so difficult for us.
It’s as if our human condition does not permit it. Perhaps we see here something of what we call original sin. That as human beings we are, in a sense necessarily limited, that we do not live our lives in open simple love with each other, but instead so often keep others at bay with dishonest emotions; whether they are envy, jealousy, racist attitudes, political animosity, or religious intolerance. It was Thoreau who said “ We fill our lives with trivialities – simplify, simplify.” It may be that we need to pay less attention to trying harder and harder to live a good Christian life, and instead turn in our weakness to the one who can give us the love, the strength and the ability to do just that. We need to stop putting too much stress on our own actions and instead simply rest in the Lord who alone is able to make all things possible.
In our time of lock-down isolation we have, in spite of the troubles and tribulations, an opportunity for some spiritual house-keeping. We have a chance to do an inventory of our relationships with each other and with our God . We can take time to declutter, to discard our unnecessary spiritual baggage. Time to KISS, to Keep It Simple Stupid. “Life is full of trivialities, simplify- simplify.”