Reflection: January 14

Published on Jan 15th, 2018 by Rev. David Boyd | 0

         There’s an interesting line in the story about Samuel as a boy being called by God to be a prophet: “The voice of God was rarely heard—prophesy was uncommon.” It makes you wonder what life was like before Samuel.

I guess there was a time when prophecy was heard often; perhaps this harkens back to the time of Moses when they were fleeing the Egyptians in the Wilderness. This fleeing became nation-building and Moses went up and down the Mountain to hear the words of God to help in that building, whatever that was like. And then Joshua led the people across the Jordan River to integrate into the land of Canaan. Joshua, too, heard God’s whispers in his ear.

But then we come to the time of the Judges, the likes of Deborah, Gideon, Jair, and Samson. Samuel comes at the end of this period, some 3200 years ago. Did Deborah and her fellow Judges not hear God? Did people lose some sense of God’s presence in their lives? It’s hard to say. What were people listening for? What did they see as a sign of God’s presence? All questions I’ve wondered about.

They’re good questions because this age in which we live seems a time in which God’s prophesy is absent, or at least we’ve lost the ability to discern God’s words for us. And maybe that’s the point, it isn’t that God stops speaking; it’s more that we’ve lost the ability to listen. We’ve closed our hearts to the deeper message of humility, openness and truly seeing!

There is no small list of voices that are out there for us all to hear: political leaders, social critics, scientists, psychologists, religious leaders, ordinary people having their say on Twitter and Facebook. I read a little commentary on the CBC website about Lynn Beyak, the Conservative Senator kicked out of the Conservative caucus for allowing what have been deemed racist comments on her website about Residential Schools. The commentary by Tim Querengesser on Wednesday last week suggested that just because a view is popular—typical was his word—doesn’t make it right. In Querengesser’s opinion, to which I agree, many typical Canadians don’t want to examine our history closely nor the manner in which First Nations people have been systematically disabused of their rights and land. What voice do we listen to in this case: the populist, typical, misguided voice described by Querengesser, or perhaps an inner voice that doesn’t want to deal with pain and discomfort, or do we listen to the voice of First Nations people and leaders who are still living with the aftermath of Residential Schools and the Indian Act?

The teaching from John’s Gospel is very interesting. The idea of seeing and abiding is very specific for John. Seeing is about one’s heart and it involves building community and crossing divides. Abiding, or come and see, as John put’s it, is about living the KinDom of God in the here and now, or in modern terms, it is about living holistically as spiritual AND physical/political beings. We see with our hearts; we discern what is truth and we test that out in our community. We abide in Christ as Christ abides in us and thus we strive to live holistically in the world.

The opposite of all that is blind faith. This blindness is also about the heart, about a closed heart, a heart that chooses to see through eyes of self-interest and self-concern. Some people blindly follow leaders who are authoritarian, who brook no dissent, who demand that one follows without question. And, according to the CBC journalist Tim Querengesser, this blind faith can also be a populist belief; we believe something because we want it to be true so we don’t have to face the more painful truth of what is.

This is what makes Jesus’ words so powerful; he cuts through the blindness of closed hearts to invite people to open hearts and new sight. And through a new sight, also to a new life. New sight gives rise to a new community and an invitation to share our ideas, our griefs, our struggles, and our hopes and dreams in a way of living more fully and in a way of living more holistically. We live from our heart-centre rather our head-centre. We live with our eyes wide open so that we can learn what it means to be fully human.

There’s a pattern to John’s first few chapters. We hear of the Light that has become flesh, the Word become flesh and dwelling among us. John the baptizer speaks of the light and that he is not the light. John the Baptizer and Jesus continue their teachings, and some of John’s disciples join Jesus. John witnesses to what he has seen and experienced, the truth of a heart that is open and free, and thus open to God’s promptings. The first disciples experience the wonder and mystery of God, have their hearts opened to this awe and wonder—the mystery of the Word made flesh—and then they, too, respond to God’s promptings and seek to live in a new way, in a new community of love.

This Epiphany season follows the same pattern. We’ve just come through Christmas and if we’ve followed our hearts, we’ve been moved by a sense of awe and wonder; we’ve been reminded again of the power of love birthed into the world. We’ve had our hearts opened to this experience of new life and we seek to live in a new way, to not live through our self-interest, but through our communal sense of being part of something bigger, something life-giving, something that brings healing and hope.

Only when we see through our hearts, will we hear God’s voice clearly. Only then, as a whole people, will we turn back from lifestyles that can’t be sustained by the earth; only then will we know that life is to be lived in deep community where we face our differences and struggle across the pain of that which might separate us. Only when we break down the fences we’ve erected around our hearts, will we thrive in unity as people created by God with spirit, will, love and hope.

We are the people of this community; we are this KinDom of love and hope. And by our actions will they know that God is still speaking, and that love can overcome separation and fear.



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