On the Gospel of Thomas

Hi Cynthia –

I hope this Lent finds you well and thriving. I am teaching a class at the Episcopal Cathedral here in Kansas City on the Gospel of Thomas. Last night we looked at Logion 23, and some class members were understandably disturbed by its “exclusivity.” I know how I would like to interpret it – that essentially we are all “chosen” because we were all made in the image of God. But what it sounds like there is just a small exclusive club that is singled out by Jesus. Of course it does seem apparent that few “wake up and stand up,” but does it follow that only a few are called? I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have time.

~ Lisa Whitlow, Kansas

I would say that we basically self-choose; we opt in or out — not according to our preference or our fantasies about ourselves (in which case we’d all be in!), but by how we actually put teeth in our intentions as demonstrated in our capacity for self-knowledge, commitment, and inner consistency. Exactly the point Jesus was trying to make with Peter just before the betrayal. “Really, Peter, really??? You say you are one of my elect, but the cock will not crow three times before you have betrayed me.” We have such little self-knowledge, so little real will, that most of us are content with vicariously experiencing salvation by imagining ourselves already there.

The road belongs to those who can actually walk it—begging God for mercy and assistance with every breath, but still marching on. And these people are few, very few.

Now as to being called, yes, I think the call is universal, reverberating in every breath we take, every heartbeat: the call to universal life, to all that “is alive, is real, is YES” (to paraphrase e.e.cummings.) Part of the problem here is that we hold the word “call” too tightly, equating it with a religious vocation or participation in a particular denomination or order, in response to a direct invitation from Big Daddy in the Sky (which of course, makes us very, very, special.) The call is to life, to love, to greater reality, and it is universal; it resounds through and in the marrow of life itself. We just need to learn to listen better.