My friends, our readings this week speak to us about hope. We need to have hope so that we can do what God is calling us to in our lives as Christians. In our present time, I believe it is true to say that many of us feel disillusioned over where our country seems headed and ill-equipped to do what is needed to make the changes that will fix this dilemma.
The psalmist today seems to be saying that we have to keep our eyes on our loving God, and for us, that is Jesus, in order that we can know our path and what our life will mean as believers, as his followers.
We have the short, but very powerful reading from the prophet Ezekiel today that at first glance appears to tell us little, but upon a second look; we get the kernel of hope we so often need when trying to do God’s work among seemingly stubborn people, as Ezekiel encountered. God says, “Whether they listen or not—they will know that a prophet has been among them.” A good question for us to consider this week might be—do I see myself as a prophet?
Sometimes I think many of us believe that being a prophet is a thing of the past—we think of a few “greats” like, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jesus, Mary, his mother and Mary of Magdala, Apostle to the Apostles. But, truly friends, the Spirit is continually renewing the face of the earth and each of us is called to the prophet role by nature of our baptisms, to speak truth as we are given it for the good of all. Much in our present day needs the words of the prophet, in each of us, I think you would agree. And with God’s grace, the prophet that is in us and others will be willing to share the Spirit’s message too!
The Spirit is always about wanting to assist us in speaking her truth. She may sneak up on us, giving us strength we didn’t know that we had. Think about this—have you ever been compelled to say something in the face of a present evil that no one was addressing, and once you said it, you wondered, how you were able to stand up and say what you did? Well my friends, that was the Spirit! We must come to humbly accept and appreciate the Spirit of Jesus wanting to renew the face of the earth through us! And if we don’t do our part, there will be a part missing!
I had several opportunities this week to do good in regard to others and I could simply look at these good things that I chose to do, and make nothing of them or I could see them as the prompting of Jesus, in his Spirit to do what he would have done. The ordinary, the everyday, my friends, that is how our God works the good into our lives, makes our lives meaningful and the life of the person we reached out to, meaningful as well! And when we can make these connections, humbly, that God is working through us, we receive the hope we so need in times of trial.
We see Paul struggling with what it means to be a prophet too, even though he doesn’t claim this distinction for himself. He is simply trying to be a true follower of his brother, Jesus. He lives with some sort of affliction that he prays God will take away only to hear, “my grace is sufficient for you.” And as Paul lives out his call—his life in Christ, he comes to be able to proclaim, “When I am powerless, it is then that I am strong.” We could well take up his thought in our daily trials as well. “When I am powerless, it is then that I am strong.”
If life were always easy—no worries, no hardships; we might become arrogant or think as some do, that we did it all ourselves. Our sufferings, what seems to be part of our physical life here, help us to recognize what others bear with in their lives and enable us to empathize with them and show compassion.
This past week, David Brooks, who writes as a conservative, political commentator for the New York Times, gave a talk, that I heard on public radio, to a group I can’t remember, but for my purposes here, I simply give him credit for uplifting an idea much needed today. He spoke of times past when the idea of “community” was much more prevalent in this country—that of knowing our neighbors, partaking in their lives and they in ours, rather than living separately and as individuals, or within our own little families.
It is this kind of individualism that raises suspicion of newcomers to this country and it is simply because we don’t care to know them or their stories. If we did, as a nation, we would see them as part of ourselves, struggling as we are, or once did, for a better life. All of us are part of the family of our good God—not something to be taken lightly.
I believe each of us can point to times in our lives when we did the right thing against all odds and felt strength beyond ourselves. Likewise, we have all had experiences when we felt the task was more than we could do, but something compelled us just the same.
At these moments we should look to Jesus, our model, our brother, our friend, because even Jesus, God’s First Born was not without scorn—the people he would have thought he could have expected support from, turned away or at least didn’t understand—his neighbors and perhaps some of his family members. His example is a great comfort to me in my times of rejection and I hope is to you as well.
It is perhaps a good meditation to think about and pray over, of just what it was like for Jesus to be rejected in his own home town. His human nature had to have experienced the pain of that rejection. On the one hand, “their lack of faith astounded Jesus,” the Scriptures tell us. His thoughts might have ran something like—“Can you not look at the fruit—see that what I am doing is for the good of people? Can you not see that we must strive to see that all of God’s creatures have the good things of this earth—that all are free, accepted and loved for who they are?” This train of thought is experienced often by me and other women priests—“check the fruits,” we find ourselves saying too, and then perhaps you won’t be so ready to condemn. For even Jesus said, “If they aren’t against us, then they are for us!
And on an even deeper level, he must have felt their rejection of him—of his person—of his truth and of the reason he laid his life out for them in the first place. Because it wasn’t about his personal need to be the messiah or his desire for power, even though, in his humanity, those temptations were no doubt real as in our own lives. We have to struggle as did he with the right reasons for our decisions—is it about me or a greater good? And this kind of reflection is so very important so as to gain strength, like our brother, Jesus, to do the right thing now, in our time!
I think sometimes in remembering that Jesus was and is God, we forget or don’t give enough attention to the fact that he was also human, fully so. This mystery of Jesus’ divine and human natures somehow existing in tandem, can be a bit to get our heads around, but we have these same natures too, that of humanity and of God, and when we are truly human— in our best selves, as God created us; we are most like God.
So, we come back to hope. We see in the lives of the prophets, like Ezekiel this week, like Paul, like Jesus, and we think of others like Mary, his mother, Mary of Magdala, his friend—prophets all, taking on the tasks of priesthood, discipleship and servant hood—tasks that each of us are called to as well, by the simple fact that we name ourselves “Christian.” How many of us miss the work of God all around us in the goodness of daily and random acts of kindness done for us, for others—the challenges we are called to—to do likewise?
Jesus found a lack of faith, a bit of mean-spiritedness even, an inability to believe the best—to see the miracle that love gives birth to. We should pray that our faith would be strong, with the clear knowledge that “God’s grace is sufficient” and therefore allow the miracles to unfold in our lives through the Spirit of Jesus for the People of God.
What will the miracles be? Which ones will we become aware of? May our eyes be open to all the good around us—miracles all! Amen? Amen!