Friday, 7 February 2020

The Duality We Live In.

In one of our scriptures for this week from the three-year lectionary namely Isaiah 58:1-12 we are reminded of the dual context in which we live. Remember: the Israelites are in exile, torn away from their home and suffering from their falling short of God’s vision by being a conquered nation. But even in the stark reality of their oppression, they continue to harm each other by unjust practices and seeking selfish gain. So, they cry “Lord, Lord” and yet turn their back on God by taking advantage of others for their own benefit. They falsely practice their faith through inauthentic fasts, practicing an “empty ritual” while “oppressing all their workers.”

The fact that God chooses is one in which they will feed the hungry, provide a bed for the homeless, and clothe the poor. Only then will they be healed, as their light will shine in the darkness and flood their world with the glory of God. Those who know God act justly and righteously. God hears their cry of exile and will come to deliver them. How will they be allowed to go home if they only mirror the oppression that keeps them captive in the here and now? So too we in the present time are living in a dual context. We live in a consumeristic society that values the things of the world, hungering for power, fame, fortune, and always more accumulations.

Even the churches that we attend have been co-opted by desiring more—more people, money, reputation, and influence. In seeking these things, our fasts are hollow and empty. We long for real meaning in our lives, and more material possessions never satisfies us. As Christians, Jesus demands the same actions from us as the Israelites: feeding the hungry, providing shelter for the homeless, and clothing the naked. Only when we practice our faith in such a way will God hear our cries. Until then, we are in exile, foreigners in an alien land, looking to return home to God. Real spiritual meaning only comes when we reach out and care for the least of these in our midst: the poor, the prisoner, the immigrant, and any who are oppressed. In doing so, our light will shine forth, and God will send meaning and hope to flood our lives.

Further, in the Epistle text from 1 Corinthians 2, we see the dual contexts between limited human wisdom and unlimited spiritual power from God. The unspiritual will never see the twin contexts we live in. This is only accessible by living in the mind of Christ, but we need to remember that no one in the secular world will understand us.
Likewise, in Matthew 5, when we care and tend to the least of God’s creation our light shines forth for all to see. Our light is the good deeds we do, and some may give glory to God because people will see why we do such good.

Historian Rodney Stark reports that when the Black Plague ripped through the Roman Empire in 260 CE, Dionysius (Bishop of Alexandria) wrote that the non-Christians pushed those who suffered away and fled for their lives. Christians lived with the Easter conviction of another world instead. They had contempt for death. “Heedless of danger,” writes Dionysius, “they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbours and cheerfully accepting their pains.”

So, where are we in light of such information. Sadly, our world in its shift right seems to value the greedy, self-preservation and power hunger of this world. A bit of the haul the paddle on board Jack, I’m alright. This is not what our God called us to but instead called us to live as his son Jesus lived, to follow his example of love, compassion, grace and joy.

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