A fire rages in a two-story house. A young boy’s head is visible leaning out a second-floor window. His voice is piercing and plaintive, “Daddy, help me! Daddy, where are you?”
Smoke (from first-floor-flames) billows from shattered ground floor windows, now obscuring visibility. From the window, the boy cannot see the ground below, and he is literally shaking with fright. The boy hears a familiar voice, as if coming from inside the great cloud of smoke. His father, shouts, implores, “Son, I am right here. I can hear you. I am right here on the ground beneath your window. I need to you to listen to me. Listen to my voice. I need you to jump. Now. Jump and I will catch you.”
“But Daddy, I can’t jump because I can’t see you.”
“That’s okay son. I will catch you because I can still see you.”
It may not be a fire. But each of us knows what it is like to be afraid. To “look outside a window” in our life, and know that something is out of kilter. Or, (maybe typically) because we can’t see, we make stuff up (and it’s never very good is it?).
It’s as if we allow the uncertainty—and the fear—to be the judge and jury for reality. I get it. We don’t believe we have any control. So, like the little boy, we feel powerless. And invisible. To those around us. Even to God. And we don’t see a way out.
In conversations over this past month, I learned of a friend’s grandson, who has lived with the fear from being abused by people sworn to love and protect him.
I learned of a friend’s relational breakup, and the sorrow and second-guessing that comes with any significant loss.
I learned that some friends lost jobs, and others were given bad news about their health.
I talked with another friend who is at one of life’s crossroads, not knowing which way to go.
And a conversation with another friend rattled by the madness from polarization, both in our culture and in our churches…
There have been times when I have looked out of the window of my life, and have seen only smoke. And I want to trust that there is someone or something to catch me.
The truth is: Most often, I really am afraid to jump. (I once read where Fr. Andrew Greeley said that how we live depends upon whether we see the universe as capricious or benign. If we jump, will someone catch us?)
In Luke’s Gospel, there is a story about a “bent woman.” We don’t know her name. Just the label that has been given to her. A label she has carried for 18 years. A woman imprisoned by her name.
Have you ever felt “bent,” bound or restricted in some way?
Have you ever felt weighted by a label (or shame, or doubt, or even despair?)
Have you ever felt invisible? To those around you? Or to God?
This is an amazing story. Luke writes simply, “When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.'”
In other words…
I can see you.
You can jump.
I will catch you.
This story could have gone another way. Jesus could have finished his lesson, and moved on to the next town, and no one—literally, no one—would have known, or even given any thought to this woman. She was invisible.
But Jesus didn’t move on. He stopped.
Not because this woman asked him to.
Not because she offered a reward.
Not because she believed.
Not because he felt coerced or pressured or needed brownie points.
He stopped. Because he saw her.
Which meant that he saw more than a superficial, cruel, limiting label. He saw not just a “bent woman,” but a “daughter of Abraham, and an heir to the blessings of God.”
Which meant that he saw a woman now free to pass those blessings on to anyone she touches. It is no surprise that he said this on a Sabbath. He invited this woman, even bent, to rest. He said, in effect, “Now that I see you, you are safe.”
Let’s just say that not everyone in the crowd that day was thrilled. I’ve learned the hard way, that as long as there are overly-religious people (you know, people whose blind unquestioning devotion to rigid and dogmatic rules trump kindness and compassion every time; you know, people who clear their throats a lot, just to let you know you’re on the wrong side of the issue); there will be disgruntlement, even in the presence of mercy and grace. These are people who prefer to use labels. It’s easier to know where others fit. And easier to keep those who are different, in their place.
I don’t think Jesus was itching for a fight, but he gave them his two cents. Saying, “Dudes… you are definitely missing the boat here. I don’t really care how religious you are. This isn’t a contest. And the sad thing is, you suffer a form of blindness, because you are hypocrites.” Hypocrite—from the Greek hupokrites—relates to the practice when ancient theatrical performers hid behind the masks of a particular character. Sometimes the mask keeps us from seeing. And sometimes it keeps us from trusting.
What did the bent woman do? She recognized that she was more than the label. And she began to do a boogie, right there in the street. (Okay, that may be a minor free translation, but I’m sticking with it.)
What I do know, is that she ceased striving.
Here’s the deal: the power of Sabbath–of sanctuary space–allows us to give in to the moment. Whatever it holds. To choose to receive, or walk, or jump, or apologize, or forgive, or love, or set right, or grant mercy, or receive mercy.
And to know that my choice is empowered by the gentle sovereignty in that voice, “Trust me Terry. You may not be able to see me, but I can still see you. Jump.”
I learned a new word this week: sclerotic… becoming rigid and unresponsive; losing the ability to adapt. Let’s just say, we could all learn to be less sclerotic.
And this headline, “Inseparable” did my heart good. “On Wednesday, the Carters will be married 75 years, the longest in presidential history. Jimmy, 96, and Rosalynn, 93, will mark the occasion in the town where they met nearly a century ago. ‘They will probably just sit and hold hands,’ said a friend and neighbor, Jill Stuckey.” (Washington Post)
Today, Independence Day. A time to remember that we are most lucky and blessed to enjoy the gifts this country has to offer. I want to count those blessings, and from that bounty, continue to improve, and include (and give to) those who don’t feel seen.
Quote for your week…
“You are the God who sees me.” Hagar’s response to God, after her cry of desperation. The Book of Genesis
SABBATH MOMENT BULLETIN BOARD
Today’s Photo Credit: “Terry, here are some more pictures from Rocklin CA. Where I live is a historic (1856 census shows 12 miners in Secret Ravine Creek, first Rocklin residents) and prehistoric piece of land where the Maidu Indians lived before in years past. There are stacked rocks, split rocks and carved rocks as well as an Indian cave with feathers carved in the rocks. Think of a motel 6 while waiting to get spawning salmon from the creek. I’ve lived here 25 years and always thought these are neat rocks, but in 2015 I sold a car to one of my customers, a 1972 Dodge Charger, yes I’m a car nut… He came over and turned out to be a real Native American, he walked around my property and pointed out many rocks with specific functions and then reached in a stacked rock and retrieved a pestle the rock thing used to grind acorns. He said he knew it would be there. Many bedrock Mortars all around. I know I’m just a curator and not the owner, my friend said these things were done by the creator. First rock is where the object was found. He also showed where there is a seat carved to shoot turkeys with bow and arrow, midway across. Thanks for all you do, I’ve seen you at Congress 5 times laughed and cried and bought your books and cds.” Thank you Joe… Keep sending your photos… send to email@example.com
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Help make Sabbath Moment possible. I write SM because I want to live with a soft heart; to create a place for sanctuary, empathy, inclusion, compassion and kindness… a space where we are refueled to make a difference. SM remains free.
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Join Me… Upcoming Events… (Because of space limitations, please call and reserve a spot)
July 9 – 11 Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, Hayesville, NC 28904
Aug 27 – 29 Mary & Joseph Retreat Center, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Sept 10 – 12 Senior Moment Retreat. Whispering Winds Catholic Conference Center, San Diego, CA
In the mailbag…
–Terry, Richard Rohr’s sharing today talked about God choosing people to be and to image God in this world. Do not be afraid. I will be with you. “Only beloved people can pass on belovedness”. I thought of you and am so grateful God chose you!! Take good care. Thanks for spilling your light. Fran
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POEMS AND PRAYERS
|Jesus means to name you. He will not let you acquiesce to the names the world wants to lay upon you. You are daughters, sons of Abraham. Your life is meant to count for something, to take its place on stage in God’s great drama of redemption. –Dr. Will Willimon|
Some of the seeds of hope
Planted tentatively in the fall
Have not come up
They lie stillborn and unrealized
somewhere in the spring soil
The strongest and the best ones
Pushed up through leaves
And layers of cold, hard resistance
Right into clear blue air
And stand there nakedly green
It’s always that way with growing things
Never knowing at the start
Which will make it and which will fail
But the thing to hold fast to
Never to lose faith in
A prayer for the world
Let the rain come and wash away
the ancient grudges, the bitter hatreds
held and nurtured over generations.
Let the rain wash away the memory
of the hurt, the neglect.
Then let the sun come out and
fill the sky with rainbows.
Let the warmth of the sun heal us
wherever we are broken.
Let it burn away the fog so that
we can see each other clearly.
So that we can see beyond labels,
beyond accents, gender or skin color.
Let the warmth and brightness
of the sun melt our selfishness.
So that we can share the joys and
feel the sorrows of our neighbors.
And let the light of the sun
be so strong that we will see all
people as our neighbors.
Let the earth, nourished by rain,
bring forth flowers
to surround us with beauty.
And let the mountains teach our hearts
to reach upward to heaven.
Rabbi Harold Kushner