Jesus continually operated from the consciousness of Sarah’s Circle. How else can one interpret his saying, “the first shall be last and the last shall be first”? It is precisely in a circle that the first are last; the last are first. And, what is more to the point, no one knows who is first, who is last–and above all, no one cares.
Indeed, when he was pressured by his disciples to name their proper place at table, Jesus utterly rejected the notion of ladder climbing (Lk. 14:7-11). His supper times with his disciples were clearly an eye to eye circle kind of intimacy, including his Last Supper. It did not end well for the rich man at the ladder’s top whom Jesus describes as dropping crumbs from the table onto Lazarus. (Lk. 16:19-31)
The sacrament of washing of the feet that meant so much to Jesus the night before he died is a patent example of a Sarah circle dynamic. What is more eye to eye, more near to earth and more distant from ladder climbing than to wash another’s feet?
Maybe this ritual ought to be revived for more than a once-a-year ceremonial reenactment. If parents washed children’s feet and children parents’; if leaders washed the folks’ feet and the folks’ washed the leaders’; if lovers washed one another’s feet, our world might become less power-over and more power-with.
Jesus both washed his disciples’ feet and had his feet washed with ointment by a woman who also dried them with her long hair. A healthy, com-passionate (passion-with) energy is at work here, open to giving and receiving.
Another example of Sarah-Circle in Jesus’ consciousness occurs in the context of his healing the suffering and his feeding the hungry (Mt. 15:29-39). We read that Jesus called his disciples and said to them:
I feel compassion [literally, ‘my bowels are turning within me’, splanchnizomai] towards all these people; they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away unfed; they might faint on the way.” … So he ordered the people to sit down on the ground; then he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and after giving thanks to God he broke them and gave to the disciples, and the disciples gave to the people….
Notice that Jesus requires for this Sarah-circle eating occasion sitting down on the ground. Earthiness, being close to the earth and therefore eye-to-eye, lies at the core of Jesus’s spiritual consciousness. He deconstructs power-over relationships.
As does his iconic teaching: “The kingdom/queendom of God is among you (or within you).” Not above you; nor beyond you; nor lording over you. The divine is present now and is among/within us all. Just like creation is. It awaits our response.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, A Spirituality Named Compassion, pp. 56f.
Banner Image: “Love Thy Neighbor.” Photo by Luis Morera on Unsplash
Queries for Contemplation
Do you recognize further circle-dynamic energies in the stories of Jesus and his teaching? What about other spiritual teachers?