Thoughts from the Wilderness

Life is astounding and bewildering. The words astound and bewilder have overlapping meanings of surprise, wonder, stun and confuse. We all know life has good surprises and bad ones and much we don’t understand. A recent opening collect (prayer) on Sunday morning celebrates our limited understanding with joy and hope: “O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire.” When we take time (in prayer) to let God’s love in we can become more aware that God promises us good things – “which exceed all that we can desire.”

And the more love in our hearts, the better the things we want, and the more likely they are to happen. God gifts us with the beauty of nature and the lushness of spring and summer. And God gifts us with human creativity as in the new gardens at SJITW planted with native plants and flowers. And lovely hanging plants created by SJITW folks for the recent Father’s Day Plant and Bake Sale.

From roses to redwoods and from hamsters to humans there’s much to be astonished about. Because everything God makes is good. God loves everyone and all of creation. And clearly God loves the diversity of (God’s) creation. And calls us to care for it.

Two cardinal messages of the Bible are, not judging and speaking and acting for justice. On the one hand, as Peter learned in Acts and as Jesus says, we are called to love everyone and not judge who does and does not deserve God’s love. Especially over things like race (God creates and loves all races) or gender (God loves all genders). Alas, many have not learned even these things, and they act with bigotry.

And bigotry points to the other cardinal message in the Bible (that is held in tension with “do not judge”). And that message is, we are to speak for and act for justice and even prophetically denounce all forms of injustice – such as bigotry in its many forms.

The tension is (partly) resolved in discerning on the one hand, the humility and love to not judge others in ignorance. Examples of ignorant judgment include racism, sexism (bigotries) and classism (greed, idolizing money, wrongly deferring to wealth and power). And on the other hand discerning that we are to call out and act against or “judge” these same kinds of things (racism, sexism and classism) as unjust, harmful and wrong. It’s not easy to call out injustice – especially among the powerful – because, well, they are powerful and people defer to that (instead of deferring to God) or don’t want to make waves anyway.

Which brings us full circle to the love of God being poured into our hearts. God’s love enables us to discern how and have the power to love and appreciate others without judgment and at the same time enables us to call out injustice. It’s tricky; it’s a tight rope – and it makes life a really astounding adventure. But even this tricky tight rope is one of God’s many blessings and gifts and good things.

In peace, John+

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