Devotions for Sunday 15th November
Welcome back to these devotions for people who don’t have the internet, or are away, or who are interested anyhow, (following my holidays which were quiet and nice thanks!)
I hope these give you a lead in to connecting with God and reflecting on life- and living next week with a spiritual boost.
Dear God, in spending this time in devotion, may we meet here heart to heart, our thankfulness and your joy, our honesty and your truth, our hopes with your love, our fears with your strength, our openness and your life, our sorrow and your compassion. We approach you in the name of Jesus. Amen
Acknowledgement – especially in this NAIDOC week
We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we live and their care of, and connection to the land, before Europeans came here. We pay our respects to their Elders, past present and emerging. We acknowledge our Second People’s benefit from their dispossession, our First People’s loss and disadvantage, and also their on-going culture and connection to the land. We cannot change the past, but we can help shape the future and so commit ourselves to reconciliation and justice as First and Second Peoples together.
Prayer. There are a number of hymns in our hymn book with great words but impossible tunes. It can be good to take time to read them as prayers- slowly and contemplatively. Here’s one- TIS 261
1 Lord you are the light of life to me;
When darkness hides my path, you help me see
Shine on me, O Lord, that now and all my days your light may lead me on, guiding my ways.
2 Lord, you are the rock on which I stand,
Stable and strong in you, held by your hand;
Keep me safe, O Lord, in weakness let there be your loving, firm embrace upholding me.
3 Lord, you are the truth that sets me free;
Only in you is found true liberty.
Teach me then, O Lord, in all thing to pursue your good and perfect will, growing like you.
4 Lord, you are the Lamb of God who died,
Suffering for love of me, scorned, crucified.
Love me still, O Lord, let others daily see your selfless, serving love flowing through me.
5 Lord, you are the King who ever reigns;
Earth’s rulers rise and fall: your throne remains.
Rule my life, O lord, I yield myself anew your name to glorify, living for you. Brian Hoare.
Readings: Matthew 18: 15-17
15 “If your brother sins against you, go to him and show him his fault. But do it privately, just between yourselves. If he listens to you, you have won your brother back. 16 But if he will not listen to you, take one or two other persons with you, so that ‘every accusation may be upheld by the testimony of two or more witnesses,’ as the scripture says. 17 And if he will not listen to them, then tell the whole thing to the church. Finally, if he will not listen to the church, treat him as though he were a pagan or a tax collector.
2 Timothy 2: 23-26
23 But keep away from foolish and ignorant arguments; you know that they end up in quarrels. 24 As the Lord's servant, you must not quarrel. You must be kind toward all, a good and patient teacher, 25 who is gentle as you correct your opponents, for it may be that God will give them the opportunity to repent and come to know the truth. 26 And then they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the Devil, who had caught them and made them obey his will.
I’ve been reading and we’ve had a study group looking at the book- Me and White Supremacy- by Layla F Saad, who is English, born of East African parents.
It’s a challenging book that shows how deeply ingrained racism is, even if we think we’re not racist. I didn’t realise just what privilege I have as a white person- how much easier it is for us than it is for black people or people of colour. It showed how we see white as normal- other colours and other cultures are the odd ones. And how, if we’re kind people we might want to save black people- but so often it’s from our sense of superiority.
Anyhow I don’t want to dwell on that just now, but on what was raised by one particular chapter, titled- Called in and called out.
Called in is where someone- and particularly a person of colour- might speak to us privately about our racism. Like in the Matthew reading- if a brother or sister has something against you, go and show them their fault . . . Called out is when it’s done publicly.
It’s not racism I’m wanting to focus on, but the whole thing about how we respond when we are corrected or told we’re wrong. How do we respond? Do we get defensive? Get abusive? Get our backs up? Cut off anything to do with the person who has corrected us? Or if it happens within the life of the church- do we say ‘That’s it! I’m never coming back here!’
It’s quite natural to feel under attack- especially when we hadn’t intended to cause any harm. It’s a horrible feeling. It raises the fight or flight response. We like to think of ourselves as good people. Being told we’re wrong upsets that self-image. We want others to think we’re good people. That’s at risk, and we might be shamed, rejected, thought less of, especially if we’re called out publicly on it- whatever it is.
If we’ve hurt someone, the pain is still felt whether we didn’t intend to. Step on someone’s foot- their foot hurts just as much if it was accidental. (Though it would hurt more if you stomped on it deliberately; and the thought that you did it from wanting to cause pain would hurt emotionally.)
We’ve seen some examples of poor reactions in the last week or so with President Trump’s behaviour. And then Mr Morrison’s response to the revelations of unfaithfulness among his Ministers – ‘the Labor party are just as bad’. While possibly true, it wasn’t facing up to what had happened.
Or do we show a more mature approach? Can we stand back from our bruised ego? Can we even thank the person for their concern and say ‘I’ll go away and think about what you’ve said’? And after reflecting coolly- if the person was right- you apologise, and resolve to not do that again. With this approach the relationship is restored, you’ve learned something and become a better person, and the person who spoke to you is also greatly relieved, because it is also a big risk to challenge someone else’s behaviour; a risk we are often too afraid to take.
In church services we usually have a prayer of confession. I’m not terribly into the prayer of confession as we usually do it. In the standard UCA service it comes near the beginning. We just get going, and then tell God how bad we’ve been. I usually don’t feel it. My head says yes that’s true, but really inside I think I have, like everyone else, done the best I could at the time. Perhaps not my best best, but I’ve tried. More often my sins are from blind spots, or mistakes, or things I haven’t realised at the time, rather than wilful wrongdoing.
(I realise that for people who come with a strong sense of having done wrong and shame, the prayer of confession and the absolution can be helpful. But I also wonder whether the Catholic practice of individual confession/reconciliation would be more helpful)
What Me and White Supremacy has awakened in me is a realisation that my judgment of myself is very self-justifying. I’ve got an excuse for everything. I don’t realise just how big my blind spots are. I know we’re all caught up in a culture that exploits the poor, that’s killing off the planet. If we were really serious about change we would be doing so much more than we do. We are happy with our privilege and comfort and too addicted to revolt against it. Especially, for some of us, given our age and energy levels and individual powerlessness.
The wonderful grace of God gives us freedom to admit our weaknesses, our mistakes, our failures, our wrong judgments of ourselves and others and our sins. We can be honest with ourselves. We need not get defensive and we can stand back from our egos. We can concede to being wrong without our being and sense of self-worth suffering damage. God’s love for us gives us rock-solid worthwhileness. Pray for the Holy Spirit to help us have this mature-faith attitude and confidence.
In Me and White Supremacy Layla Saad also says we’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to say the wrong things at times. ‘So even when you slip up, forget, and regress into old white supremacist habits and behaviours, you can repledge to your commitments and begin again. Antiracism is not about perfectionism. It is about the intention to help create change met with the consistent commitment to keep learning, keep showing up, and keep doing what is necessary so that Black people, Indigenous people and People of Colour can live with dignity and equality.’ (p200) This is so like the gospel about our whole living.
As human beings we are a mystery even to ourselves.
We are rational and irrational,
civilized and savage,
capable of deep friendships and murderous hostility,
free and in bondage,
the pinnacle of creation and its greatest danger.
Our Christian faith affirms our dignity and our fallenness
in these three ways:
We are created in the image of God.
We are sinners who deny and distort our created being.
By God’s grace we are forgiven and freed,
called and helped by the Holy Spirit
to serve as Christ’s disciples,
to live our full human potential in love, faith and hope.
(Based on Daniel Migliori: Faith Seeking Understanding p 143)
Prayers (please add in to these prayers your own experiences, people and situations of concern)
We praise you Spirit of Life for what you are and for the gifts you give us constantly. You are beyond our full understanding, but we have a glimpse.
You created us in your image- individuals with choice and emotions, the capacity to love, the ability to be creative. You created us to live in community with you and each other, sharing your gifts to us in peace and harmony.
We scan our last week in quiet, inviting you to raise within our hearts the things we need to remember- joys and successes: struggles, hurts and failures . . .
Lead us past our failures to the human potential you call us to, which we find in Jesus and the deep yearning of our hearts.
We share some of those yearnings with you in prayer, asking your Holy Spirit’s reconciling, healing, guiding, creative action.
This is what we want to see for our families and loved ones . . . in particular naming . . . .
This is what we ask for ourselves . . .
This is what we yearn for in our community, nation and world-
-in places where the coronavirus is hitting hard . . . healthwise . . . and economically . . .
-where there is conflict, polarisation, hatred and violence . . .
-where there is poverty, displacement and despair . . .
-where people are working for healing, community, living and sharing the gospel . . .
We pray for all leaders, for students doing exams, for journalists and the media, for researchers and environmentalists, and this week- especially for our First Nations’ people.
We join our individual prayers to those of all your people. In Jesus’ name we pray.
Held in the grace of God,
Listen for Jesus’ words to your heart,
Act with courage,
Look with compassion on others,
Honour yourself as God’s child,
And may the freedom Christ gives make your heart light and your body strong. Amen