Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thursday of the Second Week of Advent

Isaiah 41:13-20
Psalm 145
Matthew 11:11-15

REFLECTION: “Don't forget your place...”
Status in society is something that, unfortunately, persists today. In parts of India, caste systems still prevail. In our own community, castes also exist, though we don't dare call them by such polarizing terms. We still segregate and congregate based on obvious things like skin color and gender... and on less obvious things, like wealth, housing situations, and employment status. Sometimes we come by it on the basis of our fear of differences, and at other times, its subtle persuasion that makes it happen. I'll never forget growing up in Anderson, where crossing the railroad tracks behind Anderson High School at John Street was always accompanied by reaching to the door and pushing down on the plunger for the lock. My grandmother did it the moment we approached the tracks, and everyone else in the car was to follow suit. Same thing coming from Noblesville or Lapel back into Anderson... you pass through Edgewood but, before you get up to the K-Mart, and certainly before you hit Raible Avenue, the doors were to be locked.

My grandmother never used foul language to describe people who lived in that part of town; she never spoke disrespectfully about people of any ethnic background. But that quiet snap of the lock made a lasting impact. 'This area, this run down part of town, filled with blacks and Hispanics, is dangerous.' For years afterwards, it was just one of those Pavlovian responses - cross the tracks, lock the doors.

I don't live in Anderson anymore, and even if I did, the matter would be immaterial... my car automatically locks the doors when it hits 15 MPH these days. But when I recall those days, it teaches me a valuable lesson, one that is touched on in our reading today from the prophecy of Isaiah.

As human beings, living in the shadow of Adam's fall, our entire planet is 'run down' in comparison with what it was intended to be; and we, by nature, are all 'have nots', when measured against the holiness of God. Yet, God does not care about our definition of 'haves' and 'have nots'. His own chosen people he refers to as a 'lowly worm', but he passionately declares in the very same verse, "don't be afraid, for I will help you!"

Does that make an impact on you? It should. It should ensure that you never forget your place in the sight of a perfectly holy God. You are fallen, a sinner, in need of bridging the gap that exists between you and Yahweh. And yet, at the same time, you are called as his chosen ones. In baptism you identify with Christ. At table you are nourished with Christ. In life you are called to bear Christ. In death your hope is Christ. This is true no matter who you are. No matter what your place or station in life. No matter your ethnicity, your sins, your failures, or your successes.

So don't forget your place, my brothers and sisters... you live in a 'have not' world... and without Christ Jesus' powerful atonement, you are a 'have not'... but that's no reason to lock the doors, to marginalize others, to ignore their needs, to be blinded to the truth, any more than it is a reason for God to ignore you.

If, as our Gospel reading today proclaims, God's Kingdom is coming with forceful advancement, then we must overcome, by the power of the Spirit, all that would keep us from opening our lives to all those who need Christ Jesus' love. Weather that love needs to be expressed in preaching or provision, personal conversation, or a cup of warm soup, we must stop locking the doors of our hearts and minds, for God would never do such a thing to us. We must open ourselves up to others, touching their lives, just as God, in Christ, reaches out to us.

What part of my life can I 'unlock' to serve Yahweh more faithfully in the midst of this fallen world?