Wednesday, September 5, 2012

September 2, 2012 - Reflection by David

Have any of you seen the movie The Blind Side? It is the story of Michael Oher, a homeless and traumatized boy who became an All American football player and first round NFL draft pick with the help of a caring woman and her family. Sandra Bullock plays the caring woman and Quinton Aaron the football player. It is quite a moving portrayal of an inspiring story.

One of the scenes that occurs near the beginning of the movie happens near the US Thanksgiving at the end of November. Michael Oher is alone and abandoned; he's got no where to go and its Thanksgiving. Sandra Bullock's character has met Michael at school and when they are driving home one night, she sees him cold and shivering with no where to go. She takes him home and so begins the story. Soon after it is is Thanksgiving and Michael is invited to dinner. Sandra Bullock's family is wealthy and she lays out a spread. Everyone heaps food onto their plates and then they go and sit in various places around the living room where they watch TV, look at their cell phones, etc. Michael sits at the empty table after looking at all of the food in a bewildering fashion. Sandra Bullock's character notices Michael sitting at the table and you can almost see the light bulb go on—the table is meant to be a place where we gather to share a meal, share in conversation together and remind ourselves of what is important in life. Sandra's character calls the family to the table and they share a wonderful Thanksgiving feast. It's a masterful scene of taking back the table as a place of conversation, conversion and connection.

Jesus said, according to Mark, "Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile." That's put negatively and it is in reaction to the Pharisees who are trying to trip Jesus up; Jesus is really saying that it is our actions that can cause brokenness and conflict. Not washing our hands or forgetting some ritual won't cause problems in the world.

But what if we turn this around and state it more positively? Washing our hands before a meal won't make us clean particularly—maybe physically but not spiritually. But engaging in acts of love and compassion will! The things that come out of a positive intention of love and compassion will create love and compassion in turn. Taking a risk and reaching out to someone in need WILL make us whole. Speaking and acting in love WILL make the world a better place and WILL create positive change. Being intentional about what we say and how we are with one another WILL change the world... it will change us, too, in the process.

I love to read murder mysteries and Janet and I read a lot of them. One of the mysteries that I read this summer, and I don't remember which one, suggested that there is ever only one motive for murder and that is fear. Fear of losing something special in one's life. Fear of the other, the stranger, or the unknown. Fear of losing face or dignity. Fear of having one's person somehow invaded. Fear is certainly destructive both at a persona level and at a society level.

Fear robs us of our intention to be better people. The fight of flight syndrome robs us of our ability to think clearly and rationally. Fear doesn't allow us to live out love and hope. Fear isolates us. What is so powerful about many of the biblical stories is that they deal with fear. "Fear not," say the angels to the shepherds in the Christmas story. Fear shows up in more that 300 passages. One of my favourites is from Isaiah: "Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God... The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water." Jesus talked about removing the power of fear to paralyze us. John was right when he said that the opposite of love is not hate, but fear.

And there is too much fear-mongering in our world. Too many political and religious leaders promote fear instead of love, promote division and separation instead of community and communion. And so, with fear and trembling, I want to stand with you, my brothers and sisters, and laugh in the face of fear. I want to laugh in the face of discrimination and bigotry. I want to stand with pride—Kootenay Pride—and give thanks for the diverse and welcoming community in which we live. And where fear rears its head and discrimination and bigotry rise, we can stand together to resist the temptation to fall into fear and lead, gently but with determination, to show that love will cast out fear and wholeness and grace will lead to a new day.

I can stand behind this table and do no other thing than proclaim the power of love to claim us for her own. This table calls us together to be intentional in living whole lives. We take the bread and the fruit of the vine and we leave our fears, at least for now, as we feast together—in all of our wonderful diversity—on the love of God and embrace the way of freedom and justice.

Amen.

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