Let Awake People be Awake
“If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world.”
Above are the opening lines of a poem by William Stafford entitled “A Ritual to Read Each Other.” It is a poem I have read or shared before, but I can’t help but be taken again by these lines. For I have heard too much beauty being overlaid with fear and anger as of late – associating the Arabic language with Jihad, Muslims with ghettos that need to be patrolled, trans-gender individuals with predators, sand that we’re going to make glow. I could go on. Have we forgotten how to have conversation? Have we forgotten how to engage one another in our journeys? Is there a different way to face was causes us fear?
We (as a church in the process of moving, and as a Session in recent months) have affirmed that part of being faithful as a church is to be growing spiritually; to affirm and encourage and exhort one another in our spiritual journeys. And part of this is openness to one another; not forcing someone else’s journey into your rubric, but being open to who they are, and how it is that Jesus has been leading them. To be able to speak love and grace and forgiveness, rather than blame and hate. For being open to others’ journeys is the soil in which we might learn to be more open to our own.
Hans-Georg Gadamer is among the authors I have been reading in my academic work lately. He says that the end goal of the hermeneutical process (that is the search for how we discern what is true) is openness. This is not just open-mindedness. It is to be open to that which is alien and refractory to your categories. I think of Jesus eating with tax collectors and prostitutes, of Jesus telling us to love our enemies. I think of Peter’s dream and the call to go preach to Cornelius and his pork-eating gentile bros. I think of Philip being called to climb into the chariot with the Euthopian Eunuch and talk the prophet Isaiah. I think of Jesus touching the leper and being touched by the bleeding woman. To be open to one another, to be led by the gospel and the Christ who calls us, is to be open; not just open-minded, but open to what is alien and refractory to our categories. It is the call to be transformed in the process.
A light on a hill cannot be hidden. We must be light, and such light will look like conversation; sharing our stories and pushing each other along our redemptive journeys.
I don’t know what is going on around us, but much of the rhetoric I see concerns me. In an age of fear and trying to marginalize difference, we must be voices of love and grace. We must be willing to engage each other; to practice real conversation that can help up engage others with whom our paths cross. We must be awake and engaged with one another. For as Stafford begins his final stanza,
“For it is important that awake people be awake”
Grace and Peace,