This week’s scriptures are rife with uncomfortable contrasts. Scriptural formulas like “Blessed are you” and “Woe to you” vault me first into a childish form of works righteousness: What must I do to be on the blessed side of the contrast? Then I relax. The world is filled with wickedness, to be sure, but curses and woes? Don’t such ideas reflect a magical worldview that modern Christians like me have long discarded?
When I researched We Are Not All Victims: Local Peacebuilding in the Democratic Republic of Congo,* I felt myself living in a world where biblical ideas that I might disdain in North America came alive. For example, while interviewing the Pentecostal prophet Meshac, I experienced a Z-shaped streak of blood across my vision. I impulsively explained the phenomenon spiritually: The megwishi (evil spirit) is messing with me. You are with the prophet Meshac, so ask him to pray for you. When the same thing happened a few months later as I stood on my dog sitter’s back porch in Wisconsin, I explained the phenomenon medically: I’m having another vitreous detachment.
Are these contrasts opposites or paradoxes held together by a hidden thread? Ojibway writer Richard Wagamese teaches me the connection. In Keeper’n Me,** Keeper describes two worlds: one peopled by storytellers and their teachings; the other by rich American fishermen and their photographs. It seems that one cannot traverse these incompatible worlds without becoming lost. But then he offers the connecting thread: All people are tourists, lost in need of a guide. All are the blessed, the cursed, the woed, the righteous, and the wicked. This week, we’ll let Ojibway fiction lend insight to the uncomfortable contrasts in our biblical texts. With God as our guide, we may find a hidden thread.
*Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2016.**Doubleday: Canada Ltd, 1994.
May I find the Guide who can lead me to true happiness.
God wants us to be rooted firmly in our faith. Jeremiah contrasts those who put their trust in themselves with those who trust in God. The latter are like healthy trees with deep roots and a constant water supply, never in danger of drying up or dying. The psalmist uses the same image to describe those who meditate on God’s teachings. Thus, as you do these daily readings and reflect on them, you are sinking deep roots into fertile soil. Agricultural imagery is continued in Paul’s letter. Paul describes Jesus Christ risen in the flesh as the first fruit, meaning that he is the first of many who will be resurrected. In Luke’s version of the Beatitudes, worldly success is not necessarily an indication of God’s blessing.
Read Jeremiah 17:5-10. Examine your heart. Do you place your trust in “mere mortals” or in the Lord?
Read Psalm 1. How do you seek to meditate on God’s word day and night?
Read 1 Corinthians 15:12-20. How has your understanding of the resurrection of the dead changed your living?
Read Luke 6:17-26. How do you hold together the paradoxes of Jesus’ blessings and woes?
Respond by posting a prayer.
Whitney Simpson offers a wide-open doorway into embodied practice and awakens us to the long-held wisdom of our tradition that our bodies are sacred places where God meets us and dwells. Fully Human, Fully Divine is a true Christmas gift!”
Click here to learn more about our newest Advent book and eCourse.