Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Humbling and helpful

Lectionary Readings for Nov. 10, 2013.  Job 19:23-27a, Ps 17:1-9, 2 Thess. 1:1-4, 11-12, Luke 19:1-10
Donita Wiebe-Neufeld

I was in a magazine store (waiting to fly home from a Canadian Mennonite writer's workshop) when the cover of the fall issue of "Scientific American" caught my eyes. It REALLY caught my eyes, as the front cover is an optical illusion that pops off the page and crawls in snaky circles. It's totally captivating!

The issue is devoted to perception. After 112 pages, I can't trust that what I see is what is actually there. I'm astounded by the mind's ability to be mislead, tricked. Even with the scientific explanations in front of me, my eyes tell a different story and my reactions and feelings are keyed to the perceptions of my obviously incorrect vision.

I'm left wondering, if my eyes can be fooled, what about my other senses? What about my thoughts and feelings about the reality of the world and relationships? It's humbling to know that they could be quite different than reality, yet there are what I must use to inform my decisions and to navigate life.

These thoughts were still kicking around when I read these lectionary passages. In all four, judgement is best left to God. Job's friends are off base when they assume his guilt. It's impressive that Job, instead of submitting to internal self-hate or externally lashing out at his friends, says what he thinks and then trusts God. He testifies to his faith and tells his friends that God will be their judge too.

Psalm 19 is similar. The Psalmist can't see that he's done anything wrong, so he petitions for God's help. (Interesting how both Job and the Psalmist are not shy about claiming innocence!) Again God is trusted to provide vindication.

2 Thessalonians 1:5 (I didn't skip verses 5-10, they are important to the theme) affirms God's judgement. The church is suffering persecution, and it is affirmed in perseverance, but take a look at verse 9. This leaves me uncomfortable, it sounds nasty.  Here some of the Thessalonian's true feelings come out. These believers aren't superhuman, they aren't above the feelings of rage and revenge that we would feel. The good thing is that they control their actions. Instead of acting poorly as a result of their indignation, they leave judgement and punishment to God. That is helpful in considering the flimsiness of perception. It doesn't ultimately matter if our perceptions are correct-(although we strive to do our best), God is the one who ultimately acts and our job is to persevere in trust.

Finally, the Luke passage is the much loved story of Zacchaeus. Here Jesus sees past the illusions everyone else is caught up in. He sees something worth redeeming in Zacchaeus and is able to draw the good out of him in a way Zacchaeus couldn't manage himself. Jesus exposes the real Zacchaeus, the one who is willing to give to the poor and sacrifice his wealth to make up for past mistakes. 

All in all, a message to ultimately trust in God. Humbling and helpful.

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