This weekend, many people from First Mennonite Church will be at Camp Valaqua for an annual retreat. A worship service for those remaining in Edmonton for the weekend will be on the theme; "Listening for the Spirit".
Lectionary passages for Sept. 6, 2015. Isaiah 35:4-7, Psalm 146, James 2:1-17, Mark 7:24-37
I read through these passages trying to keep my ears and eyes open to what the Spirit of God might be trying to say to me at this particular time and place. I try to be open, but I realize that my own experiences, prejudices, opinions, and perceptions always colour the message I receive. There is no such thing as complete objectivity! So the best I can do is pray to be aware of what I bring to these readings, and try to be receptive to having my eyes opened in new ways, if that is what the Spirit is doing.
All the passages today are about God fixing things. the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the desert blooms, prisoners are set free, the downtrodden are helped...This is the stuff of hope and comfort for those who are crippled and oppressed. This is the stuff of hope and comfort too, for those who long to see the world set right. We so often feel helpless and overwhelmed by the scope of the issues we see. We easily put ourselves into the shoes of the underdog, the victims, the ones that God is coming to vindicate. But should we perhaps try to put ourselves into the shoes of the privileged, the perpetrators, those who should take warning from these words?
This time when I read the passages, I saw a dark side of healing. What about "God will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense..." (Is. 35:4) That is scary stuff for the oppressors. Or; "...the way of the wicked He brings to ruin." (Ps 146:9) Why do I make the assumption that the "terrible recompense" is aimed at someone other than me and mine? Why do I assume I am not among the wicked? Is it always someone else's problem to fix? When do I need to hear the words from a new perspective?
How do we let the Spirit speak to us with these passages? Do we only identify with the those who are being freed, or are we able to sometimes hear the Spirit speaking these things against us? Today when I read that the "blind see and the deaf hear" I wonder if the blindness is not always physical. What if the "eyes" of the rich were opened to see what their lifestyles have cost the poor? What if the "ears" of the powerful were opened to hear the cries of the oppressed? What if the lame complacency that afflicts so many of us was suddenly cured? The healing of spiritual blindness and deafness and lameness comes with a cost. If we are healed, we have to get involved. (James 2:17, faith without works is dead.) Admitting our participation in injustice, and working toward something better for others is hard work. It is straining to see through the dark and allowing God to lead us through to morning.
The passages spoke to me today in a way that challenges assumptions. I have to be open to the possibility that I might sometimes be willfully blind or selectively deaf, or complacently (conveniently) lame and only responding to the message the way I want it to be. There is a dark side to healing, if our eyes are opened, we might see our complicity in oppression and injustice. We might have to change somethings. Then again, we might not. The challenge is to be open to hearing and seeing and following where God's Spirit directs.
The vision in all these scriptures is hopeful. God promises healing for a hurting world. I pray that God helps all of us to have our eyes and ears open to the moving of the Spirit, so that our lameness is cured and we can work together toward the vision of justice and health for all.