The Lectionary passage from the Gospels for October 23, 2016 is Luke 18:9-14. And, well, I encourage you to read it because I'd say here’s a passage we can use about now.
In fact, just the other day I read an article written by a pastor which declared that anyone who stood against his preferred presidential candidate to be under no uncertain terms a “pharisee.” I confess I was a bit offended and judged that pastor to be judgemental and pharisaical himself. After all, I’m only trying to navigate these murky waters as best I can, just like we all are. And they are VERY MURKY, stick-your-hand-in-and-it-disappears murky. And besides, I think you are wrong, nameless pastor. Dead wrong. Actually I’m certain that you are. And I am right, and I see through these murky waters more clearly than you do because I am further along on the path of enlightenment than you are, obviously.
And my certainty and righteousness leave me no room for humility. My defensive stance leaves no energy left in my heart for self-reflection. My internal list of all the good qualities I possess, which I immediately begin to recite whenever someone questions my motives, drowns out the small voice that invites me to spiritual formation, to consider how I might be part of the problem, what I might do to be part of the solution.
Does this narrative sound familiar?
I think we can subvert it. I think we can, in a sort of grassroots, guerilla way, which in my experience how mercy usually operates, BE THE CHANGE. We can reject mudslinging and turn our cheeks. We can lower our defensive fists and invite contemplation. We can loudly and decisively reject oppression, and then live prophetically and humbly into what comes after it is gone. We can listen to the chorus of angry voices around us, find where the pain is, and set about healing it. We can do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly.
At least I hope we can.
God, we turn toward you now.
Be merciful to us, sinners.
We feel we must defend ourselves.
We take refuge in you.
We feel we must silence others.
We choose to be still instead.
We feel we must rebut every argument.
We look to you for what is right.
We feel we must make ourselves appear powerful.
We remember that your power is made perfect in weakness. (1)
Help us to not point fingers or launch accusations.
Help us to quietly and peaceably stand up for what is good.
Help us to take care of our own hearts before criticizing others.
Help us to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.
We recognize that we are sinners
In need of mercy.
We recognize that we all see in part,
In need of divine perspective.
We recognize that we are all fighting a great battle,
In need of kindness. (2)
May we imitate the humility of Christ,
Who accepted punishment,
Who endured humiliation and slander
And used them for good.
We turn toward you now.
Be merciful to us, sinners.
2 Corinthians 12:9
Quote attributed to Ian McLaren