Tag Archives: othering

Healing wilful deafness

Is 35:4-7         James 2: 1-5             Mk 7: 31-37

I actually had the opportunity to “preach” this week in a real church in front of real people. So I haven’t doubled up, I’ve used that as my blog for the week. It’s a bit different than the more dialogic usual stuff. This is more of a presentation than a dialogue.

 

What does it mean to be deaf?

There is real, physical deafness, and I don’t want to be ableist, by conflating it with the sort of deafness that I want God to heal in me and in my world.The physically deaf person, may already be very relational, may be very engaged and sensitive to all sorts of others in the world. So I want to leave aside questions of physical deafness and “miracles” in the material sense because

…there is also a willing and wilful deafness called “privilege”.

The danger as soon as I think about what is wrong with the world, with the oppression and exploitation of the earth and all sorts of othered people is that I will see my own powerlessness, my own lack of energy to sustain any sort of meaningful resistance and I will get angry and depressed. Along with this goes the self-knowledge of the first world, comparatively well-off person. I am caught up in these meshes of oppression, I benefit from them I am at times wilfully deaf and complacently mute. The guilt can paralyse me, the toxic negativity can overcome unless I (of the fearful heart) look to the encouragement in the first reading.

Isaiah here gives us impossible hope- personal and ecological renewal in an overabundance of healing, but darkly also a “terrible recompense”. What power we have needs to have an orientation toward that reality undermining hope, the possibility when we connect with others in God of gaining a momentum that unstops wilfully deaf ears for real change.

Wilful deafness is also present in James where favouritism and inequality are built into the culture of a church or a society. In our own privilege we fail to even notice the otherness we have never experienced. How often might I hear nothing but the echoing powerful voice of those who have seized for themselves the right to define how we relate to God and our neighbour, who silence anyone who is not the same as them. How much more do my deafened ears refuse to hear the oppressed when I am not one of “them”, when my voice too echoes with self-satisfied privilege and hegemonic wisdoms.

In my privilege, I am deaf and there is an impediment in the way I speak. The love that I am called to speak, comes out as judgement of the weak; the call to repentance toward the powerful becomes appeasement. I like my status and my peaceful life. That is no way to preach the good news.

In the past, I have had a very passive way of reading the gospel. I have read it as though I were a princess, chained to a rock waiting for a heroic Christ to ride into battle to rescue me from my own weakness (whether I use the word “sin” or try out some more compassionate term). What a negligent way to half-respond to God’s call! We have no gospel stories where Jesus says “I am here to carry your cross while you be my cheerleader and then faint into my arms.” Instead we have “Take up your cross. Follow me. Become me. Be me.” Yes we eat the body of Christ, like babies taking in nutrition and learning from their mother who they cling to and watch closely. But why do babies do this? To grow and learn and move on their own two feet, to take up the business of living and being in themselves, on their own behalf.

As we eat Christ, we watch Christ. Then we are set free to be Christ. In every Jesus story we must jump in and be Jesus.

So much for passively waiting and hoping for God to undeafen us and iron out our lack of eloquence and wisdom. We are called to jump into the deaf and mute world ready to be the ones who unstop ears that have failed to hear the poor, willing to untangle and liberate tongues whose unique God-given gospel may not yet have been heard….not even by the church. Not even by us!

Jesus himself was a powerful speaker. His words here are minimal. He is intimate, private, touches, encourages, listens. He asks the disciples to tell no one, the deaf man is not being exploited by God for glory or kingdom building- his story of liberation is his own, it happens apart from the gaze of the crowd (ironically someone has watched or imagined and reported and even more ironically if the disciples had been more obedient we would have had fewer of these life-giving stories).

Back in the second reading it was the poor who were rich in faith. We can share in this wealth of faith when we set free the silenced voices, just as we must be poking and prodding and unblocking the powerful in our church and in our world when they fail to hear Jesus calling us all to a more just and sustainable way of life.

Who do we need to allow to speak to us?

How do we make the world listen?

What does this story mean for the Christ each of us is called to become?

Let’s take a short moment to use our tongues and ears in sharing meaning-making.

Stef wrestles with the text (anyone can)

To justify the way I rough and tumble with the readings and refuse to submit to them I thought I would write a very short extra post that I can simply link to when I do it instead of constantly re-explaining. Maybe some time I will make a longer post on this topic.

Look at this strange reading!

Like Jacob I refuse to give up until I get some sort of blessing out of the readings. Not all of them give it up easily.

Dry bones and yearning for wisdom

Readings here

How on earth do I (the mortal) prophesy in such a way that dry bones live? Is there really such a power in God’s words, even filtered through me, to change reality? We do know that discourses do actually change reality – it’s how people like Rupert Murdoch gain so much influence. But how to circulate a counter discourse in these (neoliberal) times?

The living, and life-inbreathing Word of God- the discourse that is justice. How to access its power and heed its mission? A vast multitude of the people of God is (once again) cut off from grace and hope. Completely cut off, it would seem. Ironically I am among them, I the prophet, the mortal also nothing more than a dry and despairing pile of bones. God’s call is also to me, against the odds to live and to “know” that God will speak and act. God calls me to be the prophet also, to give the call to others for life and hope and knowing also.

God what are you asking? This is worse than an alarm going off at 4am. This is JUST NOT POSSIBLE. This is #justnotpossible. !!! Unlike the prophet in the first reading, who quietly and simply obeys God (quiet, simple obedience does not seem to be in my nature) I rant and rave. Why? How? What exactly are you expecting me to say and do God? Why me? Oh this is just too hard! I conclude that I am mistaken, God doesn’t mean me, I am overhearing someone else’s call and because of my “crush” on god am thinking it pertains to little old me.

In my life, in my person it is not possible for these dry bones to live.

Sorry God.

Sorry.

Onto the psalm. Oh here we are praising an all-powerful God who can offer food and renewal to all her beloved creatures. Well go on God, feed your creatures. Starting with the refugees, the Rohingga, who no country is prepared to take in. Bugger watching Leviathan, these are your people!

I cannot hear a reply from my God. My dry bones remain still.

What hope is there? What knowing toward a powerful and life-giving divine? I have no such knowledge, I fail to even brush at the hem of the robe of eternally desirable Wisdom. I gather with “them”, in one place. I like that “they” are anonymous, not necessarily the patriarchal leaders, or not only. I am there too.

I wait for the rushing wind, for the sound of something happening, something changing, being transformed.  I wait for the Holy Spirit to inspire us to be understandable and understood to the “other”. We are only Galileans (well actually I am a Taperoo bogan which is even worse). And I sit here, this pile of dry bones and wait and reread the story to see what will happen next.

And as I read, I stop identifying with “them” because “they” are really not the othered “them” but are at the cultural centre of the story as the authoritative “us”. They are after all the “Apostles” they speak, export their truth from the centre and the marginalised “all nations” simply receive it passively and with the naïve wonder any colonised nations get depicted as possessing. We export our white, privileged, wealthy capitalist truths and standardised tests too as well as our bullshit about “border protection”. But we do not let “them” speak back to “us”!

“Us” of the hardened hearts, the stopped ears…the dried bones. Was it stubbornness and privilege that dried the bones then?

“They” call on the name of the Lord, because don’t kid yourselves Muslims (in boats or otherwise) follow (as imperfectly as we do) the same God as “we” Christians do! And how can God save them when “we” deny them salvation? The dryness of our bones is the raw material our society is based upon, we cannot afford to hear God’s word and live. We cannot afford to change the discourse.

I turn finally to that “gospel” reading. Gospel means “good news” and by now I am desperate for hope.

The ruler of this world has been condemned. The ruling class and our own investment in privilege cannot stand in the face of the Advocate for God’s righteousness (justice) and remembering that other gospel where Christ clearly identifies with the hungry we refused to feed and the thirsty we refused to give water to the stranger we refused to embrace. And the other one about the Samaritan. Our Spiritual heritage abounds in precedents for the Advocate to cite against us when advocating for the hungry, dispossessed Christ.

Can we really not bear to hear these things yet? Can we really not yet bear the command to live and to give life? The Spirit speaks to us. May she also speak through us, to create life where there is none, to be radically creation affirming, truth finding and accessible (and open) to every othered soul in creation.

Spirit I acknowledge I am lost, I tried to follow you into Good Friday but it was so dark there I missed the glint of Easter I was looking for. Spirit find me and hold my hand because what can one lone voice do against the hordes of life-denying, rational, border-protecting hell? I want them to be fed. I want to believe in you again; if I knew how, I would follow you anywhere.

Can these dry bones live?

Please God, can they?