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I’ve learned quite a bit so far, in the five weeks of quarantine; things about others (hmmm) AND things about myself (double-hmmm).  For instance, here are just a few caveats:

  • Sometimes I eat because I just want something to do.
  • I can throw my back out simply by sitting on the couch.
  • Learning new skills is exhausting for a 62-year-old.
  • Some people are really quite stupid.
  • Some people are really quite wonderful.
  • I’m glad I love my house AND my spouse.
  • (From watching NETFLIX British crime dramas) Why am I not living in England? (And a codicil) Of course, if I DID live there, I wouldn’t want to live in one of those small, quaint “one-pub” villages that has a murder every week!
  • Cats are not as happy their humans are home as dogs probably are.
  • TV Chefs have a different definition of, “Quick and easy” than I do.
  • I need to be friends with Chip & Jo Gaines, and…
  • I’ve learned what IS and what IS NOT “essential”.

It’s the question of the day: “Is it essential?” 

Of course, “Essential” is looked at by every person in a subjective way; what seems essential for me may not be essential for you.  For instance, because I’ve run out of hair product, and the product has doubled in price (let’s chat about price-gouging during a pandemic, sometime) I decided to buzz my hair off – my hair is not essential. 

Bacon is.

But again, that’s MY subjective decision.  I am thankful for leaders who have to wade through their constituents’ requests/whining to determine what is best for the community and not just for the “squeaky wheel”.

“ESSENTIAL” – of the utmost importance (MERRIAM-WEBSTER) 

I have, as a minister, been busier than usual (yes, it even surprises me).  Although, when chatting with my minister friends, they are all saying the same thing; they’ve never felt busier, nor have they been more tired at the end of the day.  We have also come to the conclusion that this circumstance has been great for re-booting our minds, our doctrines, and our analyses of God, His people, and the world.

It has also caused us all to ask: what is “essential” for the Believer & Follower of Jesus? 

GOOGLE that question and you’ll find as many answers as there are televangelists in Georgia.  Again, it SEEMS like a subjective question: , each denomination and church seems to have a different idea about essentials for those of us who Believe & Follow.

But I disagree, I don’t think it’s as complicated as the Church or Church leaders would like to make it. I believe the recorded words of Jesus, and the words of scripture as we read them, are quite clear about the “essentials”.

Now, you know I don’t like to take any scripture out of context, but a good place to start is with the prophet, MICAH.

A minor prophet, MICAH lived during the reign of three Judean kings and spoke specifically to them in their time and place.  At one point, however, he addresses (with Providential authority) all humanity:
“Mankind (humanity), He has told you what is good and what it is the Lord (“YHWH”: self-Existent or Eternal; name of God) requires (requests/asks) of you: to act justly, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” MICAH 6:8 

But isn’t there MORE to it than that?  For those of us who grew up in the Church, in the 1970s, there were “The Four Spiritual Laws” which showed the method by which we chose to Believe & Follow Jesus. Based on a variety of scriptures, these were a good start…but then some thought some talk about behavior is essential, while others believe that regular attendance in church or tithing is essential.  Add to that the denominational differences of frequency of sacraments and public baptism…you can see where it can get a little out of hand.

What about Jesus?  What does HE say?  After all, the whole of scripture prior to His birth points to HIM.  And the whole of scripture following His resurrection and ascension comments on HIM.  I think what HE says takes precedent over all else.

What should one do to “become” a Believer & Follower?  Jesus took each person where they were and sometimes asked things of one that he didn’t ask of another – based on who they were, and what they needed. But the simplest exchange was on the cross.  The insurrectionist hanging with Jesus said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into Your Kingdom.” (LUKE 23:42-43) And Jesus simply answered that he (the insurrectionist) and Jesus would be together in God’s garden, sooner rather than later.  No “Four Spiritual Laws”, no Church attendance, no tithing, nada, the man simply acknowledged he believed Jesus was who He said He was, and asked for a favor.  That was it.

When it comes to everyday living, however, it seems to be even simpler.  Jesus was, and is, explicit in two places.
FIRST, in His description of the last days (MATTHEW 25:34-40) there is no talk of denominations, church attendance, sacraments, etc.  It’s simple: “take care of those around you, love them, that’s how you love Me.”
SECOND, Jesus told His disciples plainly, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (JOHN 13:34-35) 

What is “essential” for “Believers & Followers”?  LOVE is essential.  LOVE; the “agape” that chooses to love no matter what and no matter who.  The LOVE that is not based on emotion, but based on action. LOVE is essential because it covers all, it heals, and God IS love.

Our denomination, THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH (DISCIPLES OF CHRIST) talks about “essentials” a lot. We quote (as do many other denominations) Marco Antonio de Dominis (d. 1624) when it comes to life with others, and essentials:

“In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas.” (LATIN)
“In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, freedom. In all things, love.”

In this time & place when the mere sound of a voice, a smile, the eyes, or the touch of a hand have become so valuable – let’s remember the “essential” thing – LOVE one another.