When I have to ask my kid whether he is afraid when he goes to school or out in neighborhood, just because he’s Asian… I lament.
When I have conversation after conversation with my son in 3rd grade and 6th grade and every day in small-town-northern-Illinois, and today, about what it feels like to be called names, slurs typically ascribed to other ethnic Asian groups because, to the uninformed or monochromatic-social-experience ‘all Asians look alike’… I lament.
When I preach about how Jesus came to show us how much God loves us *all* and that we are made to follow in the same way calling out injustices, examples of when humankind choose hate toward a group of humans based on how they look or speak or love—*over* love… and someone in the congregation sneers… as my teenaged son, faithful, sits in the front row… my heart breaks in a billion pieces… and I lament.
May we love our neighbor’s babies as our own – and continue creating, imagining, challenging, working toward a more perfect union where all are free to fully grow as the image and likeness of God. Pursue love, right-making: the fight is a good one.
Despot, cold pot; join the lot: birth-got. Blind assent – Office bent; mass lament no lieges repent. Meek inherit, broken bear it – fools declare it, absent merit. Slowly simmer, substance dimmer, blisters glimmer – Grenouille dinner! Nicole Oliver Snyder
A woman writes an article for Christianity Today. About Jesus.
She uses imagery that suggests Jesus is a woman, and black. She receives hate mail and death threats.
Because she writes an article in Christianity Today suggesting Jesus might be anything other than a white man.
God. Is not.
And never will be.
A white man.
If I say that I follow Jesus, I have a responsibility to stand with the oppressed. The first step is to self-educate.
God designated the times, gave us enough space, so we’d search, find God – though God is always near. Through time, across cultures, we find God, are finding God together.
It is not a one-person show. It is not a one-denomination’s show. It is not for a single entity to decide who God is because it takes millennia and worlds of discovery to even begin to know this God. Still, this God is not unknown, unknowable. Just unfathomable.
The unknown god is known to the people of Athens because God is in our very breath! We breathe the Spirit of God. It is because God is not enshrined, not a piece of wood, not high above – beyond anything we know or experience (sure, God extends beyond anything we can even conceive. Still.) God. Is. Near.
Indeed, It is IN God we exist.
We have as the essence of our being, in the power that made death absolutely inert – nothing – we are held within the very bosom of – the Holy Trinity. And this Triune God Is Love. Encircles us. Holds us together – In Love. All of us. This same God. This same Love. Encircles ALL of us!
We breathe the Spirit of God. God, Who is Love lives IN us, and we are enclosed IN God, and we share the same Spirit, contained within the same God. This God Who is love. Encircling us. Empowering us. How do we live like we believe this in this time of pandemic?
Jesus heals the royal official’s son and the paralytic to coax their faith, walk them through the process, inviting them into the movements of belief; called them to participate with him (make peace of their relationship) in the healing – to believe …“in Jesus as God’s Word Made Flesh—God’s embodied sacramental presence tent-pitched in the world so that those who believe in him are empowered to become ‘children of God.’”
The two men who both experience Jesus’ healing power, do what they’re told. And in that process, in the doing, they are healed. It is a physical, bodily action, enacting their faith that Jesus’ command elicits. Not to prove himself, to perform a sign, wonders, but tease out the faith he knew these two individuals held, germinating within. No one else would be able to see that but Jesus. Just as I could not see whether my seed was germinating – but, in faith (desperate, on the brink of humiliation before my Trustees) I nudged the mulch and continued caring for them.
The way of peace is not inert – it is active. To walk in the way of peace, faith is a prerequisite. It absolutely does not look the same from one person to the next.
The paralytic had to actually try and stand up. The official had to 1st notice Jesus, then perform an act below his social station, 3rd, follow Jesus’ command by starting home believing his son will be healed, and finally confirm the healing occurred when Jesus spoke those words of healing. It didn’t happen all at once. It was a process.
And what happens? Peace is brought to his home – they ALL believe! because this royal official came to his senses, moved with Jesus through the process of belief.
It’s always process, evolving – creative. And isn’t that what healing is all about? Recreating that which is ailing?: the body, a relationship, a system?
“Tell all the truth but tell it slant”… bit by bit, or it might blind us to ALL the truth. What is the truth Jesus is calling you to today? How is Jesus coaxing you to relationship, to move in faith along the way of Peace? To what creative process is your spirit germinating, ready to press aside the bits that attempt to suffocate, but persist, so full of life, potential blooms, ready to flourish?
Lent is a little bit like the pregnancy-birth process. It is a time of waiting, growing something important inside. A mother I needed a partner to take months paying attention to my breathing, my movements; notice signs of distress, to encourage with images of riding the wave of each contraction, and feel the distress each time I believes I would be crushed, drown under the force of it. Practicing contemplating all that is me – the one growing our child within – we grow to know each other more deeply, intimately, and trust each other in/for the process.
In silence and contemplation, we find the space to recreate perspective, so Judgement is no longer something we need fear, but an invitation to discernment, “a growing awareness of how God engages us.” It’s all about our relationships.
In today’s reading, Jesus encounters another woman. This time a stranger, and a Samaritan, and pulling water from the well at mid-day (avoiding the usual times a woman should), whom he ought never approach, let alone accept a drink. And he says, “woman….”
In the case of his mother, they knew each other. Taking a moment of silence, a bit of time to come to her senses, Jesus’ respectful, intimate call for her attention was more than enough.
For the woman at the well, more time was needed. She had an impressive amount of information about worship practices. Like Nicodemus – though certainly not as elaborate – she was well taught the promise of a Messiah to come. She was open to belief, but needed more time contemplating this possibility. Time with Jesus. Talking with others. Testing her faith: “Could he be?”
The woman at the well is unnamed and unknown to Jesus on meeting. When Jesus says, “Woman…” gunē, in the vocative, direct, as if already in relationship, she pauses (as Mary did at the wedding) and then she opens her soul to Jesus. The respect and dignity he offers this woman by addressing her with this word elicits a trust, a hint of the kind of relationship she tried so hard to find – and failed – in her 5 previous marriages and current partner.
She opens her soul to Jesus and is delighted, giddy with the revelation of what relationship is meant to be like – to be known and to be loved. To be loved in the knowing.
To believe this, to understand and experience a reality of relating with God through Christ in the Spirit, we absolutely must first come to our sense. Be still. Be silent. And contemplate. Accept this profound love by being known; know in the loving.
May you contemplate your relationship with Jesus this week. Open your soul to Jesus. Be known and loved; love and know in return. And ride the waves of such exposure that threaten to crush, drown under the force of it.
Silence is hard. Silence leaves us vulnerable to deeper, darker thoughts. But we cannot hear anything if we don’t listen. And it is only when we are willing to meet whatever it is we find in that silence – in all of its sometimes frightening discomfort – watered by our attention – that something might grow out of the deep, dark, and clumpy soil.
When Jesus responds to Mary during the wedding at the Cana, “Woman…” there is something so intimate about that. Jesus is saying, “Woman, individual, human of great worth, you matter to me – listen.” And Mary does pause. She seems to take a breath and center on Jesus’ words, Jesus’ presence in that time-space. And this moment of being silent in Jesus’ presence brings Mary to herself, to the reality that all will be well. Timeless. Suspended senses.
And in the 2nd story, again, there is frenzy – of buying and selling animals that will be used for sacrificial rituals. But they have missed the point entirely. They are trying to do everything they can to keep the synagogue running in the way that others are doing it, to do worship just like all the other synagogues in town. And Jesus had to tear the place apart before they would stop and listen and notice. God incarnate. Jesus, in their midst.
And it is all for the disciples – so that they would believe Jesus was who he said he was. So they would listen, be silent, stop making assumptions, but truly hear.
The “unreflective practice” with the wedding and at the temple, speaks to the economic, political and religious. When rituals and ceremonies are practiced without reflection, without pause, silence – when we are overwhelmed by entering these rituals in a manner that everyone else is compelled to do, we miss the point entirely. And we reveal our lack of faith, our belief that Jesus is who he says he is.
We need silence. We need to be still. We need to listen to the heart of God – in our particular situation. Notice. Look again. Discern that which is going on here. Not blaming others, not judging – God is the one who has the capacity to pass judgment – but discerning. And it can be scary, even terrifying. Because in my solitude I have to ask, What is my part in all of this?
Let us notice that which is within rather than the flower that will wilt and crumble. Let us dig deep into the dry clumpy soil and tend it, water it. Let us first be silent, even jolted out of our frenzied worry and turn our face to Jesus – and believe.
May we recreate a perspective unique to us, to our situation in silence. It’s an art from: the art of silence.
This is what doing justice looks like: To be known as a people who do something about injustices and work to make things right, a people that can be trusted, a people who are safe, empowered by the Spirit of God; and to do so, we must Just grow up!
Growing up means we have a broader view. Our perspective becomes more expansive. We’ve moved beyond object permanence. We have the ability now, our brains are capable of meeting someone from a different neighborhood or culture and learn to understand that view.
Paul says this (1Cor3): you keep trying to elevate yourselves, make yourselves seem important by aligning with certain people, or ideas, crushing others by declaring their inadequacies based on superficial things. But you’re no god; you’re human! God is the one who causes growth. So grow up! Whatever it is that you do out of your giftedness, talents, privilege or hardship, we absolutely must work together. Because we are working toward a common goal!
Would not our faith strengthen, our feet feel a firmer foundation, if we understood the spectacular faith of so many saints – those who planted and watered alongside us, often unbeknownst to us?!
“Jesus made it clear that he came to bring ‘good news to the poor’ (Luke 4:18), showing that if we liberated the people on the margins, the good news would float upwards—in the opposite direction of the ‘trickle down’ economic model, which is largely an illusion.”(Richard Rohr)
Rev. Dr. Cone wrote, “Any message that is not related to the liberation of the poor in a society is not Christ’s message. Any theology that is indifferent to the theme of liberation is not Christian theology.”
To what lengths will you go to show love? How far will you go to display your love for God?
If you believe God exists, and that Jesus is who he says he is, and we say Yes, I believe, then we must live into that reality. That means, we who have already been learning, being discipled, will go out and disciple others, be that witness of God’s love, Jesus’ redemptive power, the Spirit’s outpouring of graces to the community.
And, that we be known as a people who do something about injustices and work to make things right – just evidence of a people that can be trusted, a people who are safe, empowered by the Spirit of God; that God brings about growth, and for transformation to occur, it is crucial that we Just grow up!
I want to be a Just Grownup. How about you?