Building Walls – Reflection 5 February 2017
Reflection on the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
Most of the time I am able to keep things separated. Like keeping the gravy away from the salad on my plate, I can usually keep the news and the Bible far apart. I read the news as an American and the Bible as a Christian. This distinction allows me to maintain the illusion that repentance is for other people. I can also avoid or ignore the parts of the Bible that challenge me to actually listen to God rather than seeking God’s approval of my own well formulated opinion.
Today was different. I could continue to ignore the polemic rhetoric about walls and travel bans with political and religious pundits on each side. As long as I maintain a degree of abstraction and ignore the faces, I can still seek after God and delight in His ways as if we “were a people that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God.” However, it was the reminder of human trafficking and oppression that accompanies major sporting events like the Super Bowl that I could no longer ignore. Isaiah’s trumpet blew loudly in my ears and like the walls of Jericho, the wall that I had carefully erected between the news and the Bible came crashing down.
I must admit that I am a little frightened about how God might answer if I find the courage to pray for Him to open my eyes. How might He call me to “loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?” Would He really ask me to “share my bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into my house?” Perhaps these are just metaphors that I can find a way to ignore as I try to rebuild my wall.
I must admit that it is far easier to see the world through what Paul calls “the spirit of the world” and keep the “Spirit that is from God” confined to the church and other activities where I can maintain an illusion of righteousness similar to the scribes and Pharisees. That familiar wall keeps the salt in its cellar and prevents the light from shining too brightly. It keeps things separated and comfortable.
It also keeps me from entering the Kingdom. It keeps me from seeing God at work around me. That wall of my own making keeps me separated from God. It keeps me from seeing “what God has prepared for those who love him.”