I have wanted to write something along these lines myself, but here it is done eloquently and succinctly. Thank you, Matt 🙂
The Bible is the sweeping story of a refugee people.
It’s sometimes hard to see it as such, when bishops sit in the House of Lords and American evangelicals have access to the corridors of power. But without the stories of liberation from Egypt, and the Exile in Babylon, and the Roman oppression of Israel, the whole narrative of the Scriptures falls apart. Even the words in black and white come to us not from the rarefied atmosphere of some ancient theological powerhouse but from immigrant communities remembering the destruction of their cities, their journey into exile.
And so there’s a direct link across the ages between the antisemitic plots recorded in theBook of Estherand the refugees who arrived in the UK as part of theKindertransport; there’s a link betweenthose fleeing Aleppo and the Book of Lamentations; people looking for economic security and the
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I’m in bed because I have a bad cold and whenever I catch anything these days I have to be very careful otherwise I will not get better in a timely fashion. Ugh. It’s mostly just boring and frustrating because I have a daily plan and I can’t stick to it 😕
However, this morning I am so glad because I have been listening to audiobooks and came across a wonderful recording which has been sitting in my Audible library for a while now. Today I have had the opportunity to give it my full attention.
“[There is] a giant step from knowledge to acknowledgement. In a family, a community and a nation there can be guilty secrets. Everybody knows something to be the case but there is no acknowledgement.”
“Prayer, love, support, acknowledgement, reverence, recognition, giving it moral content, saying ‘yes, what happened to you was wrong‘, all of this is what I would say, in terms of my faith, [is] the way in which God enabled me to travel a journey from victim [to] survivor to victor… Something horrible happens to us [and] we’re victims. If we physically survive we are survivors, but frequently that’s where people stop and remain prisoners inside themselves… Life is like a river: something terrible happens and our lives become whirlpools, and we never ever really live again except in terms of what has happened to us…”
~ Father Michael Lapsley speaking in ‘A South African Journey’
by Radio Free Maine.
Audiobook available from audible.co.uk
(transcribed by yours truly)
Michael Lapsley campaigned against apartheid. In 1990 he was the subject of a letter bomb which caused severe burns, destroyed his hands and left him blind in one eye. Since then he has worked tirelessly for hope and healing, in particular he works with former victims of trauma.
“…if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”
~ John 8:36 (NRSVA)
On the last day when Jesus calls me by name, come… blessed of my Father, it will not be because Abba is just, but because His name is Mercy.
~ from The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning
Now the definition of sin that many of us were given was a thought, word or deed contrary to the Law of God. The requirements for sin were three:
- You had to have full knowledge.
- It had to be a grievous matter.
- You had to give it full consent.
It all sounds reasonable at first glance, but actually it’s not a definition of biblical sin at all. It’s a juridical definition of law. We lost touch with the biblical tradition and the intimately personal struggle meant by the word ‘sin’. We made the whole thing juridical, where we could easily identify it, shame it and enforce it. Thus our concerns came with external behaviour that could be pointed to, measured, defined and controlled, or brought into ‘court’ as it were. You cannot do that with mercy, justice and good faith… which Jesus calls the ‘weightier’ matters of the Law.
~ Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality by Richard Rohr
…Jesus addressed the crowds and his disciples. “The scribes and the Pharisees speak with the authority of Moses,” he told them, “so you must do what they tell you and follow their instructions. But you must not imitate their lives! For they preach but do not practise. They pile up back-breaking burdens and lay them on other men’s shoulders—yet they themselves will not raise a finger to move them. Their whole lives are planned with an eye to effect. They… love seats of honour at dinner parties… They love to be greeted with respect in public places… The only ‘superior’ among you is the one who serves the others. For every man who promotes himself will be humbled, and every man who learns to be humble will find promotion.
extract from Matthew 23:1-12 (JB Phillips)
It’s as if Jesus is waving and shouting, “You’re looking in the wrong place!” but we’re all so busy doing ‘religion’ that we either can’t see Him or we ignore Him. We’re preoccupied with either ourselves and our egos or with the opposite – with worry about doing the ‘right thing’.
If the mind that needs to make moral judgements about everything is the master instead of the servant, religion is almost always corrupted. Some would think that is the whole meaning of Christianity: to be able to decide who’s going to heaven and who isn’t. This is much more a search for control than it is a search for truth, love or God. It has to do with ego, which needs to pigeonhole everything to give itself that sense of ‘I know’ and ‘I am in control of the data’… I guess God knew that such would be the direction that religion would take, so God said, “Don’t do it! Don’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
~ Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality
“Don’t judge other people and you will not be judged yourselves. Don’t condemn and you will not be condemned. Make allowances for others and people will make allowances for you. Give and men will give to you—yes, good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over will they pour into your lap. For whatever measure you use with other people, they will use in their dealings with you.”
~ Luke 6:37-38, JB Phillips
Have done, then, with impurity and every other evil which touches the lives of others, and humbly accept the message that God has sown in your hearts, and which can save your souls. Don’t I beg you, only hear the message, but put it into practice; otherwise you are merely deluding yourselves… Religion that is pure and genuine in the sight of God the Father will show itself by such things as visiting orphans and widows in their distress and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.
~ James 1:21,22,27
I wonder if ‘keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world’ means what we think it means?
I’m off to my EMDR session tomorrow, with the full intention of trying to ‘let go’. My friend is in labour with her first baby. My parents are flying back to Europe this week from America. The children are at school tomorrow. A friend mourns his wife.
In the Middle East, Christians are fleeing their homes, their livelihoods, running from everything they have ever known. Worse still, some of them stay, knowing the consequences but choosing to live as people of light in the land of darkness, God help them. God bless them. See how bright they blaze in the darkness?
Children the world over are abandoned, abused, neglected. Families starve in the basement while in the penthouse they party with champagne. One is born into poverty. One is born into privilege. The world groans under the weight of her own iniquities.
Now is the needed time. Lord. As much as ever, we need You. We need a Saviour. Help us to be thankful for ‘enough’ and when we have more than enough, help us to share. Help us to always be alert to the suffering of our brothers and sisters, and to help them in whatever small way we can. We know that with You, Lord, small becomes big, last becomes first, poor becomes rich. Thank you, Lord, for your Upside Down Kingdom. Help us in our weakness. We need You.