Reflection: September 16

Published on Sep 18th, 2018 by Rev. David Boyd | 0

One of the sayings I learned as a young lad was “Those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones!  I learned it from my mom as well as at school.  A more biblical saying might be the one about taking the mote out of our eyes and then only will you be able to see the speck in the other’s eye!  The point is that it easy to see the flaws in others while ignoring our own.

Especially when it comes to Wisdom.  I loved studying Wisdom when I was in seminary in Vancouver.  I loved learning about this manifestation of God’s being as a woman.  It was such a welcome counter to the patriarchal Christianity in which I’d been steeped, and I came from a liberal Christian and progressive tradition.  I went to Sunday School with the New Curriculum in the 60’s, a controversial curriculum that depicted Jesus and other Biblical characters, not as white Europeans, but as an artist imagined they might be like in 1st Century Palestine.  It was controversial, too, because it used modern scholarship and challenged a number of long-held traditions like the Virgin Birth.  Even so, Sophia-Wisdom wasn’t mentioned much and more feminist aspects to God’s nature weren’t really emphasized in this curriculum.

Wisdom really pushed us to see the world differently.  And when I heard the things that make for a un-Wisdom living, as we hear in today’s reading, I was even more enlightened.  Proverbs mention things like foolishness and a lack of understanding, ignorance and mockery.  And then rhetorically, we hear of the calamities that will visit us because of our foolishness.  Now, I don’t for a minute believe in these kinds of consequences that originate from God as punishment for our foolishness.  But I do believe that our foolish choices do sometimes lead us into difficult and challenging circumstances.

But back to my point at the beginning about not throwing stones—I remember one of my professors going on about the foolishness of society and some political leaders and entertainers—this was the 1980’s and there were lots of examples to choose from in the media and popular culture—Ronald Reagan, for example, and Margaret Thatcher. We had Mr. T. and the burgeoning wrestling phenomena.  With every example, we’d nod our heads more enthusiastically.  And then my professor stopped and the glimmer of a smile played at the corner of his mouth (knowing that he’d trapped us)—we all paused in confusion, and then he said, “but what about you?  What about your own foolishness?  It’s easy to point fingers, isn’t it?”  Yes, it is!  And I’ve done my share of finger-pointing!

In today’s world, it is all too easy to point fingers at the far right, from my perspective, and their anti-immigration stances in Italy, Hungary, Australia, Austria, England, the US, the likes of Maxime Bernier in Canada.  The trick is to hold leaders accountable for statements and behaviours without vilifying or dehumanizing.  And we need to hold folk accountable.  As I’ve said before, echoing the words of Edmund Burke who said, “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.”  Burke, an Irish political philosopher, spoke these words in the 18th century—and he is considered the father of modern conservatism, ironically—but not the alt-right.  I think he also said, “whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither, in my opinion, is safe.” Now, that’s also a piece of Wisdom that we need today because we all need to have our say gently, with love and compassion holding justice and freedom together.

The Eco-congregation Scotland, the resource I’ve been using for this season of creation, invites us to think of justice and liberty as one whole and not to vilify those with whom we disagree, but look at our own behaviours.  “Are we fools, when we ignore the call to live lightly on this earth; when we think we are insulated from disaster and can survive the looming ecological crisis?  What if this crisis caused by our consumerist lifestyle were to elide with an economic crisis, would we survive the perfect storm?”  (Elide means to merge.)  Well, people are not surviving the storms that are occurring around the world!

Psalm 19 stirs in us a sense of awe that God’s creative spark is alive and well in us and in the world around us.  It is one of those beautiful psalms full of imagery from the natural world.  The challenge it presents is the challenge of our interconnectedness.  I know that this is a modern term, that of being interconnected, but it is a modern term precisely because we forgot that we are part of nature and not independent of it.  The medieval church and then the enlightenment pointed to human beings as the pinnacle of God’s creation; we have been living with the aftermath of that, trying to undo this understanding and get back to the knowledge that we are part of creation, that we are interconnected with creation, an ancient world-view that is none-the-less true today as always.  Wisdom affirms creation and the inter-relationships that abound.

And what does Jesus’ question have to do with it?  “Who do people say that I am?”  Perhaps, it is another rhetorical question like Tina Turner’s question in her song from many years ago, “What’s love go to do with it?”  And the answer is, “Everything!”

As followers of the one who is the Christ, who challenged us all to not stand pat on the status quo, but to continue to evolve in our thinking, looking to work with others in creating a just society and world in which to live.  John Dominic Crossan describes this Wisdom idea as “Distributive Justice.”  Distributive justice is that all creatures, including human beings, have the right to live and thrive; no one species, no one way of thinking, no one person has the right to dominate another—remember liberty and justice are interwoven?

To affirm Jesus as the Christ is to affirm that life—our lives and the life of others—is the most important thing.  And then Jesus invites us to live this outrageous love and life in ways that speak truth to power, that invite courage when we’re ridiculed, that can be life-changing not just individually, but collectively.  Take as an example the young 9-year old girl in Australia who raised eyebrows and the ire of the far right because she sat during a school assembly singing of the national anthem of Australia, which is racist and exclusivist.  She wanted to raise awareness of racism and Australia’s history.  That’s putting love on the line.  That’s the kind of courage we all need to live as whole, interconnected, loving, aware and wise beings.

Amen.

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