There is this thing that I do when I get overwhelmed by the news. I turn it off. I walk away.
And then I stew on it. I pray about it and I feel hopeless and helpless for a while. And then I wonder what I can do, I read – and I move between let’s get on this and where to begin?
So I’m bringing my dismay to you.
I was on my first day of a week off with my kids last Saturday when I heard about that people had been shot in a mosque in Christ Church, New Zealand. That people had been praying, in their house of worship and were not safe there.
And I froze. New Zealand is a long ways away – on the other side of the world. But my heart hurt so badly. And I say people posting things and saying things and quickly the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, quickly became one of my new heroes. Showing leadership in a way that gave me hope.
But my heart still hurt. For How long O lord, are we going to live in fear of one another? Why are we so afraid of each other?
I listened to an interview with an Imam and a Rabbi in Toronto, not so far away at all, on the radio who talked about the fear that they live in and the security measures that they have to have on their houses of worship. I drove in this morning past two synagogues with security guards outside, both I’m pretty sure, have them not for the same reasons as we did – to help with a particular population that we might be uncomfortable with, but rather, to actually keep those going in safe.
And I began my swirl downwards, I thought “What the hell?’ Are people getting these terrible racist ideas from their reading of the Gospel? Are these people who believe that they are better than others, who believe that others should be dead, basing it on a very poor reading of our scripture?
And then I immediately move to a place of, we should just shut it all down. Let’s be done with the Christian church, we have caused enough trouble.
But I don’t actually believe that.
And I know that there are people in many faiths who believe that theirs is the right one, the only one and who have the capacity to do terrible things in the name of God. We aren’t the only ones. And also I don’t believe that God in any form, within any tradition supports racism, or violence against people or creation in any form. I think that is a poor reading of any scripture. Though I do not claim to be a scholar.
And I honestly don’t’ have a clue whether the guy in New Zealand counted himself as a Christian or not – I didn’t give him enough time to figure it out.
I am bringing this to you, my community because it is heavy on my heart. Because I am worried about the world that we live in. I am worried about the ways that we treat our neighbours. I worry about relationships with indigenous communities, with Muslim communities, with Jewish communities. I worry about how members of the LGBTQ2S communites are treated. I worry that we are increasingly living in a world that just scared of our neighbours – when we are called to love them.
I’m not saying any of this to try to bring you down with me. I want to search with you for where there might be hope for us through our reading or response to scripture today. Because I honestly do think that we have much to be hopeful about.
There is love everywhere.
We just have to be willing to see it.
And so I am thinking about ways to engage our neighbours. I want to live into the values that we state about being accountable to one another outside of these walls and in the world.
I want to be as accountable to my neighbours outside as I am to you, who I love so much.
So I looked deeper at the readings that we have for tonight. I read this passage from Isaiah on Tuesday this week, it just felt like balm. So I’ve been reading them over and over. It felt as though God was speaking directly to my heart – a re-orientation from fear towards not that.
Isaiah was speaking to a broken people. They had been exiled, traumatized and broken.
My Bible titles this passage: Invitation to the Thirsty.
And I came into this week Thirsty for the word of God. Thirsty for love lived out in the world fearlessly. Thirsty for the promise that there is room for us all. Thirsty for justice for all who live with injustice.
I am thirsty to live this out with you, my spiritual community.
Today which is also the anniversary of the day that Oscar Romero was killed in El Salvador while celebrating the Eucharist, and the third Sunday in Lent. I want to think about what this Isaiah passage has to say to us through poetry.
My hope is that as we consider words shared tonight, we wonder together about what action they move you, or us towards?
How do we want to live this?
I don’t want to keep spinning and swirling around, I want us to behave in ways that have us showing our love for our neighbours.
Walter Bruggeman says that we have three tasks in Lent.
- To see Pharaoh clearly (and here Pharaoh represents for us brutal concentration of wealth and power and the ‘isms’ that have been so pervasive in our culture: racism, sexism, nationalism and I would say also the various ‘phobias’ that we have towards others, largely based in our own fear – like homophobia, transphobia, islamophobia, etc.) and how we have normalized them and anxiety and scarcity and fearfulness and greed into our culture.
- To recognize that there is an alternative. We can choose to live in a way that is not preoccupied with fear or scarcity but choose to live with and to practice abundance. Enough for all. Enough God, enough space, enough love.
- Take on a practice of intention and discipline – giving up the expectation of greed and ideology and anti-neighbourliness and exhaustion.
As we look at this reading, this poem from the prophet Isaiah, I think we receive some of this invitation to live a new way. To come to the water, to have milk and bread, enough, for no money. Incline your ear to God [me] and listen and enter into a convenant with God[me]
that is based on love.
There is hope is these words. Hope and beauty. God is talking to us through Isaiah so that even when we feel as though we are in a desert, a place that is dry and scary and uncertain. Though we might feel like I felt last week, we can turn to God and we can find hope in these words and possibility to live a different way. We can take on a practice of intention and discipline. And we can live in love.
But my words aren’t enough here. I wanted a variety of perspectives. I wanted to hear your take on what I understand the main themes to be from this passage so I sent out a request because I needed to hear more words that remind us of the goodness that is possible or of how we seek to listen, how we search for God, how we listen or where we find hope.
I wanted to hear words that speak to you.
If you are coming to church tonight and you have or have written a poem that speaks about hope, love, seeking God, living into a promise or listening.
Would you consider bringing it to share tonight?
And I want to invite us to share them now.
I think that poetry speaks to us differently than other written text. My experience is that it has the capacity to illicit a response or speak to our hearts in a way that other text does not.
So though we are not sharing in this season, we are sharing this.
And let’s see where it takes us.
 Liberally translated by me from http://day1.org/8145-walter_brueggemann_strategies_for_staying_emancipated