Owning Your Own Theology

Sept 11, 2006

Sept 11, 2006

Dear Friends,

In worship this Sunday, you will likely hear these two readings (among others):  Genesis 50:15-21 and Matthew 18:21-35.  Both stories are about painful wrongs and the choices we make in how to deal with them.  Themes of vengeance, forgiveness, and reconciliation emerge strongly, and are worth considering in some quiet moments of personal devotion.

There is a line that Joseph speaks to his brothers in Genesis (who had in the past mistreated him terribly and frequently) when they come begging for help for their starving families.  It follows here:  “19But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? 20Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good…”

God intended it for good.  The wrongs themselves are NOT good, but God can use them and turn them, and turn our hearts–all of us–so that good may come.  This story is so lovely not only because Joseph shows kindness when he didn’t need to, but because he sees it in the light of a bigger story of a God who loves them all, nice brothers and nasty ones too.  Joseph doesn’t spew hate back at them; he tells his brothers who he thinks God is.  Today, we might say something similar:  that God does not cause the suffering or the evil.  That evil is evil.  Bad things are bad.  Sin is sin.  Yet God redeems it through God’s Son.

When tragedy happens, large or small, we would do well to take a note from Joseph’s life.  Rather than imposing our understanding of God on another, we listen to theirs.  When victims of great suffering speak, they may see a God of love like Joseph did.  They may not.  They may not see God as a part of things at all.  It is not our job to make sense of others tragedies for them.  Speaking itself is healing for victims.  And as people of faith, we trust that God will work for good in our patient listening. 

And then, when it is you or me who suffers, we have the opportunity to own our personal theology.  Forged and tested, a hard-won grace.  And it will be another’s turn to listen.

Prayer:  On this anniversary of the September 11th tragedy in America, Lord God, we pray for the triumph of Your goodness…and for the increase of listening…starting in our own hearts.  Amen.

One Response

  1. Thank you for the wonderful way to get connected with God’s word. Isn’t cyberspace great!

    I know I’m a bit older than a young adult, but I’m young at heart and pray that others will tap into this valuable resource.

    Your message hits home as I work with people on the margins of society, those that are homeless, in transition, victims of domestic abuse or in recovery for chemical dependance. Yes, these people do suffer, and I suffer with them as I hear their stories and long for grace and healing in their lives. God calls us to relationship with his creation and humanity. The ministry of reflective listening and simple presence can speak volumes to people who seemingly don’t have a voice. It is important that we take time to listen to one another without judgement or needing to fix anything.

    May we listen more intently. God’ blessings to all.
    Sr. Barb

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