“I have taken you by the hand and kept you”
These words from the prophet Isaiah come from today’s readings for the feast of a saint who died for the poor and the oppressed. (The entire passage is below.)
What does it mean for a God of glory and majesty to also be willing to speak these words to us through a Prophet. It is so easy to point to the financially poor or the systemically poor or the socially poor so that we have some “other” to care for and, at times, feel superiority over as we do our “caring.” Tricky. But what I love about this passage is that the caring for the people of God is linked with doing new things.
God’s glory sets people and peoples free. That is a forte of our living God. God sets people free from bondage – bondages of sin, bondages of addictions, bondages of self-loathing, bondages of regret, bondages of un-forgiveness, bondages of money-fear, bondages of change-fear. But WHILE God does this work, God is also making new things. Not after – when everything is clean and neat and tidy, but DURING the setting-free work. This middle ground between order and chaos is called “chaord” in systems theory, and we will be learning a lot about it as church as we continue the work of opening up our longings in the Art of Hosting Meaningful Conversation.
A couple weeks ago we invited leaders within the congregation to a three day training in participatory leadership as a way to dismantle power structures and open up new ways of being together. I was nervous. Would people sign up for a three day class of eight hours each day? Could we fill 50 slots? Could even 30 be filled in only 5 weeks?
The day we launched the invitation 25 signed up. Two days later we were up to 60 and had to remove registration from the web site. The experience of so much passion and longing for change in how we are together was inspiring and it reminded me that while we long to be set free from bondages in which we find ourselves, we also want God to be planting new things within our lives -things which surprise us – things which grow up around us – things which may even frighten us in their strangeness and newness.
Look at this passage from Isaiah: God breathes the Spirit – then takes our hands – then sets us free while holding our hands – and then makes new things around us – while holding our hands.
This way of God being with us – hand holding in the midst of dismantling prisons and rebuilding new things, give me hope.
With my hand held – by God, by my friends, by my spiritual leaders, by even my dog’s loving kindness – with my hand held, I can face just about anything. We all can.
Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people upon it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness,
I have taken you by the hand and kept you;
I have given you as a covenant to the people,
a light to the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I am the LORD, that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to idols.
See, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth,
I tell you of them.