Monday, December 22, 2014

A Recent Article in the Ocean Springs Gazette

       Turn on the radio of late and you are likely to hear Taylor Swift singing “Shake It Off.”  Swift dedicates the song to her detractors.  She says you cannot control what other people say or do, you can only control your own reaction.  Swift admonishes us not to let what others do or say “get under our skin,” but rather we should “shake it off.”  That phrase, “shake it off” is evocative.  The phrase is reminiscent of one of the admonitions of Jesus: “...shake the dust off your feet.” British theologian John Oman called this admonition of Jesus "The Forgotten Sacrament.”
When Jesus sent his disciples out on mission, he said “When people refuse to welcome you and the gospel you preach, refuse to offer hospitality, shake the dust off your feet.”  Shake the dust off your feet and move on.
Jesus knew his disciples would face rejection and failure.  We run into our own limitations and the limitations of others.  We do our best and our best is not good enough.  Others do their best and their best is not good enough.  And, sometimes our worst gets involved too, and so do others’ worst.  To untangle the knot of responsibility is beyond our capabilities.
So Jesus, in his wisdom and mercy, has given us this sacrament, the shaking off of the dust, what Oman called "The Sacrament of Failure."  It is an acknowledgment that we have done all we can do, all we should do, and it is time to let go and move on.
Sometimes we are tempted to move too quickly.  The desert fathers and mothers advised: "Leave no place easily." There may be still much to learn there.  But, there are times when the most redemptive thing for you and for the other is to shake the dust off your feet and move on. It is a mercy to us and it is a mercy to them. It gives them and us another chance.  We acknowledge the failure, ours and theirs, and move on.
Taylor Swift, whether she knows it or not, is giving sound theological advice when she sings to us:  “Shake it off.”