Wise and Intelligent?

I find it interesting that so many of the people Jesus spent time with, cared about, and lifted up have characteristics that are ones I don’t want to have.

Having spent many years in school, I certainly prefer to be considered intelligent.  And now that I have reached a certain age, I find it somewhat comforting despite the diminishments of aging to be aware of an increase in wisdom.  But, after a period of teaching disciples and the crowds, Jesus prays, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things [what Jesus is trying to teach the people] from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants” (Matthew 11: 25).  Being wise and intelligent may not be the best avenue for being open to the life-giving Word.

Jesus upset the religious establishment of his day by spending time with “sinners and tax collectors.”  When challenged about this behavior, Jesus replied that he had been sent to care for those who were sick, not for those who were well; for sinners not for the righteous (See Matthew 9: 9-13; Mark 2: 15-17; Luke 5: 27-32).  But I prefer to be healthy and righteous.

When I was a child playing competitive games on the playground at school, I loved being one of the first children chosen for a team.  Those who were chosen last suffered.  With Jesus, status doesn’t come in being first.  “Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave” (Matthew 20: 26b-27).

Sometimes we need to have our perspectives challenged and turned upside down.  Jesus is ready to do that.

Queries:

How have you known about being on the bottom side of life?

Where, if anywhere, does Jesus fit in your life?

Prayer:

Choose one of the biblical references above.  Read it, and select a word or phrase or image to chew on.  Let the passage be prayed in you.  Listen for the word given you.

For further reflection:

“Nathanael said to [Philip], ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see’” (See John 1: 43-51).

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (See Matthew 11: 28-30).

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Revelation Continues

Quakers believe that God continues to speak to us, guide and direct us in a way that is available and discernible without an intermediary.  I personally find that the Bible is often a vehicle for that revelation—for unexpected openings and experiences of Presence.

I have read the Bible enough that much of it is quite familiar.  And yet there are times when I read a passage I know well and suddenly some new insight opens up.  The insight is not just an interesting new idea.  It is rather something that shifts me inwardly.  I may or may not have words to describe what happened.   I am drawn closer to the divine, I am guided, my condition is spoken to.  I remember a time when I was reading one Psalm every day for a week.  Almost every day a different part of the Psalm caught my attention and taught me.

Since before the shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, I have been part of a group of blacks and whites eager to hear what the Bible has to say.  Recently we have been studying the second half of the book of Isaiah.  In Isaiah 51 we had heard strong and powerful words, “Awake,awake; listen; rouse yourself!”  I was preparing Isaiah 52.  In the first two verses I heard the strong words again, “Awake, awake…; shake yourself from the dust…; loose the bonds…”

I put my pen to paper, and these words rolled out:

“Awake, awake, white people.

Take off your blinders.

Shake yourself out of your illusions.

Turn to God who loves us all equally and rejects injustice.

Loose the bonds of those you have oppressed that your bonds might also be

loosed.”

When I shared the words with the group, intending to have them listen for words for themselves, the group instead was silent and we were dropped deep.

I know my words are not the meaning of the text itself.  God is speaking to the oppressed people of Israel exiled in Babylon, not to a powerful group.  And yet I believe that the Bible passage was a vehicle for an experience of continuing revelation.

Queries:

What do you believe about revelation?  Does God continue to speak to us and guide us?

What is your relationship with the Bible?

Prayer:

Our Guide and our Hope, help us to hear your voice in the Scriptures, in each other, and in the signs of the times.  [based on intercession in Give Us This Day, November 15, 2016, Evening]

For further reflection:

“Open my eyes, so that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18).

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching . . .  so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  (See 2 Timothy 3: 16-17.)