Our texts this week, Amos 7:7-17 and Luke 10:25-37 are looking at the same issue from opposite ends of the telescope. Amos’s fierce prophetic voice challenges us to see the ways in which we fail God and fail neighbor, and his sweeping condemnation of the practices and habits of his day (many of which match our own) remind us how we become part of a hurtful system that we can be reluctant to change. Jesus’ counter question to the lawyer—who was the neighbor—the priest, the Levite, or the Samaritan—challenges us to think about our every day interactions with the people we meet face to face. Both point to the many ways we sidestep being love.
I came across the excerpt from Christian Wiman. Wiman was raised in a fundamentalist community, and then left church and religion completely. His return to church and God (not the same thing!) has been reluctant but firm. He notes here how even devotion to God and cultivating spirituality can become an escape from the very difficult work of loving others. I’ve emphasized the line that convicted me…see what you think, and then think about what you do, and about how you do it. How we together might help each other see the “fatal complacency” that makes it so hard to match the neighborliness of the Good Samaritan?
P.S. I highly recommend Wiman’s interview with Krista Tippett, which you can access here. https://onbeing.org/programs/christian-wiman-how-does-one-remember-god-jan2018/
The unedited version is worth the extra 30 mins of conversation. I download all of these podcasts for my long drives, or ironing, or just listening…
One day when I had gone to a little chapel near my office at lunchtime and was once more praying while wondering how and why and to whom I prayed, a man came in and eased into the pew directly across the aisle from me. As we were the only two people there, his choice of where to sit seemed odd, and irritating. Within a couple of minutes, all thought of God was gone into the man’s constant movements and his elaborate sighs, and when I finally rose in exasperation, he stood immediately to face me. He had the sandblasted look of long poverty, the skeletal clarity of long addiction, and that vaguely aggressive abasement that truly tests the nature of one’s charity. Very cunning, I noted, failing the test even as I opened my wallet: to stake out this little chapel, to prey upon the praying! For days then it nagged at me – not him, but it, the situation – which, I finally realized, was precisely the problem: how easily a fatal complacency seeps into even those acts we undertake as disciplines, and how comfortable we become with our own intellectual and spiritual discomfort. Wondering how and why and to whom I prayed? I felt almost as if God had been telling me, as if Christ were telling me (in church no less): get off your mystified ass and do something.
My Bright Abyss