A blog by Lesley Hildrey, Intergenerational Minister at St. James
Do your rulers speak justly?
Do you judge uprightly among men?
No, in your heart you devise injustice,
And your hands mete out violence on the earth.
Even from birth the wicked go astray;
From the womb they are wayward
And speak lies.
Their venom is like the venom of a snake,
Like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears,
That will not heed the tune of the charmer,
However skillful the charmer may be.
Oh my! You certainly can rely on the psalms to express your anger and frustrations for you, can't you? A lot of the time I am looking at our weekly readings and trying to figure out how they might appear to a child or a young adult, especially if they are hearing it for the first time. For example: Do we want them to think Christianity is all about spite and vengeance, like this psalm? (Just read the rest of this psalm! How the author wishes God to torture his enemies in terrible ways!) I find I need to be quite careful.
I think about how a reading sounds in today's modern world, or out of the context it was originally placed in, and I wonder, most importantly, what will children take away from it? Which part will "stick?" How do they reflect God in the eyes of a child? If there is violence and gore there are many youngsters that will only really focus on that. e.g. The story of the Good Samaritan: some cannot get past the part of the man being beaten almost to death, unless guided carefully - and who can blame them? We all want to look at the accident by the side of the road. There are others who have other fixations or interests, such as the welfare of the animals, what happened to the children or the women, etc.
Are you like that? I think I am. I bring my own biases to the scriptures and look on them with my own personal shade of tinted sunglasses. (Mine are a blue-green, With red patches of anger!!) Continuing this analogy, It strikes me that Jesus must have been the only one that could truly see things as they are -- without the filter of any glasses at all. He saw clearly, and he reacted clearly in a way that was in tune with God. Even when he was angry with the vendors in the temple, his reaction was exactly what was needed to get his point across clearly at that time, his behavior a reflection of God.
I find myself wishing I had been alive over 2000 years ago, to hear him preaching to the crowds. Surely he was the most charismatic speaker, since people followed him and would not leave him in peace. (Remember he had to take a boat out to escape for a while? To have a break.) How "hungry" they were for his truth. Do we see this hunger in people these days? In our children? Our leaders, our families or even our enemies? My guess is that we have learned from a very early age to cover up our yearnings and to redirect many of them into less spiritual ways. How then can we return to the basics? How can we stop trying to be "sophisticated" or teaching ourselves and our youngsters to make do with material things or even a "good read" or a film instead of seeking the deeper spiritual truths? Temporary entertainment instead of true thirst quenching water from the Living Spring?
First we need to acknowledge our needs. Our yearning for something more. (Not as easy as it sounds. We must search our souls, meditate, mull it over and discuss it with others.) Secondly, we must then seek out the Truth. We won't find it in politics, in fiction, or even in non-fiction. We will however, make a good start with fellowship, learning and friends by not trying to figure it out alone.
Recently, my "best school friend," as I call her, has been visiting me for the first time since I moved here, 17 years ago. We grew up together in the same village, went to middle school and high school together, were each other's matron of honor, etc. Perhaps more importantly, we went to church and to church activities together, through our teenage years. Things have changed a lot since our school days over 30 years ago. She is now a very evangelical baptist and a creationist, whilst I am an Episcopalian believing in evolution! We live on different continents even. Despite this divergence of our paths we found our friendship growing even stronger on this visit. We had to agree to differ on some of these aspects, but ultimately our warm friendship brought us such joy and comfort. A friendship that is surely just a pale shadow of the warmth and love of Christ.
Wow! If only we could fully realize this love in our lives, how different might we be? And so, we try. We all tread this path we have chosen together, and must look out for each other. Separate but together. We are called to welcome newcomers with open arms and take the arms of those who are unsteady on their feet. Carry the children when necessary and hug each other often. When someone is in despair, or so tired, rest with them and then aid them on again in their journey.
We, at St. James, are a community of friends and disciples. let's show the world that and invite them in warmly, whoever they are. Regardless of our divisive times, let our church be a beacon of light: of love and respect. Let us reflect Christ's perfect love as best we can.
Yours in peace,