Thursday, 2 February 2017

Indictment and Direction

For February 5, 2017

I’ve been reading world news on my facebook feed, looking at the Edmonton Journal, and listening to the CBC news. (I’m disclosing my sources because that’s important, especially in an age of false news and populism!) There has been awful stuff like the tragic shootings in Quebec and the immigration ban in the US. There have also been good things like the many vigils in support of our Muslim neighbours and politicians and organizations who are trying to speak with constructive voices against hatred. I am, however, left confused and frustrated with people (of all stripes) who seem to have left critical thinking behind in order to yell whatever slogan they resonate with. I am frightened by the lack of decency people display to each other. I am impressed by a few who are able to combine respect and critique at the same time.

I’ve also been reading the lectionary passages, and have found again, that they help in a reading of humanity throughout time. This week Isaiah 58 offers an indictment of the negative use of power. It can (and should) be read both as a corporate indictment of nations, and as meaningful to us individuals.

Here are a few verses that haunt me:

2: “day after day they seek me…as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God”

3b: “look, you serve your own interest…and oppress all your workers.”

4: “…such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.”

Then there is this call to action and obedience:

V6-7: “Is not this the fast that I choose; to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?”

The following verses tell of the reward for this kind of self-giving obedience. They show a people and nation made great because they have refrained from pursuing their own interests. They have lifted others up and become a people together.

It is particularly disturbing to see comments made on facebook by people supporting the wall and the immigration bans. So many of them do not have any basis in facts, they simply claim that this is “making us safe again.” Seems to me that walls and injustice create enemies, not safety. The Isaiah call to action for justice is much more likely to heal divisions than any more barriers between people.

How do we speak and live into these times in the name of Jesus?  As defiant protestors? As lofty intellectuals? As self-righteous do-gooders? As avoiders, so quiet and meek that no one knows we are there? Things are so complicated, I know I live in my own “echo chamber”, hearing and seeing mostly what already supports my opinions. I know I would likely be categorized as a “left leaner”, a condescending liberal…etc…but I don’t want my voice dismissed like that. And I shouldn’t just out of hand dismiss the voices of those I disagree with either.

1 Cor. 2:1-12 is helpful. Paul goes to the Corinthians in weakness, fear, and trembling. He has nothing but the simple message of a savior who sacrifices himself for others. He says he doesn’t speak in lofty wise words, but encourages faith in the power of God. Matt. 5:13-20 follows up the beatitudes by claiming that Jesus followers are salt and light. They do things that help others.

To be salt and light we must show respect to everyone, including those we strongly disagree with. We have to reach out to the hurting. We must sacrifice some of our own self-interest for the good of others. Not an easy thing on an individual scale-crazy hard for nations.

On a somewhat related note, here is a link to an amazing sermon that helps me rethink my own viewpoints. Thanks to Ryan Dueck (pastor of Lethbridge Mennonite Church) for pointing me to this one!

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