I wonder what God sees when God looks at us. Samuel didn’t see what God saw in the sons of Jesse. The folks in Corinth were not seeing each other as they were in Christ. The disciples didn’t see what Jesus saw in a mustard seed. And this week my FB feed is filled with vitriol which tells me that we don’t often see what God sees.
Caitlyn Jenner sparked all kinds of ignorant, hateful, and hurtful remarks even from a well-known author who writes about living in peace and loving-kindness with great frequency. The incident in McKinney sparked the same kind of hurtful responses. People I thought would “know better” posted things like, “It’s not about race.” How can we who claim to be Christians be so blind?
When I read through the 1 Samuel reading this week I was annoyed with Samuel for his blindness. Why could he not get let go and move into what God was calling him to do? He so stubbornly clung to Saul and the old ways of doing things. God had to give him step by step instructions just so David could be anointed the new king of Israel. My initial response to Samuel was one of impatience, at least until I saw myself in him.
Until the last year or so, I never thought of myself as a racist. I’d work so hard to undo what I had learned as a child (I grew up in a very racist household) that it didn’t occur to me that some of those lessons had seeped much deeper into my consciousness. I’ve always had friends who are not white, so how could I be racist in any way? Well, when I first started hearing about black men being killed by police, my first assumption was that those men had been doing something wrong. I am ashamed to say that it took me a while to get to the place where I could say that we don’t kill people for stealing, or mouthing off, or walking down the stairs at night, or any of the other things these black men and women were doing when they were killed. And we certainly don’t use excessive force on girls in bikinis at pool parties. These people were killed or assaulted by police because they were black. It is about race and I didn’t want to see it for a long time.
I see it now, though. I see racism everywhere in our culture. If you look, you will see it, too. You will see it in our schools, in our neighborhoods, in our churches, in our justice system, in our prisons. You will see it when you feel fear when encountering a person of another race walking down the street. You will see it when you judge another as “other.” I believe that God is speaking as clearly to those of us who cling to “old ways” as God spoke to Samuel. It’s time for a new way and God wants us to bring it about.
God wants us to bring about a church, a community, a culture, a world in which we see as God sees and we act with love and mercy. I know that this is not as simple as Samuel’s task of anointing David. I realize that the world will not change quickly. However, if enough voices are joined together in love, will that not change something?
While I’m speaking about love, I want to say something about transgender folks, too, because sometimes it isn’t about race. Sometimes the hateful, hurtful judgements come from a place of fear. I’m not a fan of Caitlin Jenner, exactly. I think she’s privileged and somewhat whiney. However, I do admire her courage and her using her power and position to educate people about transgender life. Just like every other kind of person around, transgender people have been in existence as long as human beings have. The difference now is that we have psychological and medical understanding that allows for trans folks to stop hiding and start living out loud. They should not be shamed or ridiculed for claiming their true identity. No one should.
This culture of fear and hatred of persons we deem as “other” comes from same place that racism comes from. I do not believe it has a place in the lives of anyone claiming to follow Jesus. Dismissing and demeaning anyone is unnecessary and if we take the gospel seriously, then everyone is loved by God and deserves the same rights and dignity as everyone else. God’s love does not depend on race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, class, education or any other social construct. God’s love is a given. When will we become agents of that love and mercy?
When I read the texts this week, I hear very clearly a call to a new future. I hear the call to stop clinging to and grieving for things of the past. I hear the call to see every person as beloved and whole in Christ. And I hear the call to let the old die away so that new and unexpected life may grow from what once was a tiny seed. Even though Samuel moved forward with reluctance, I pray for the kind of courage and grace that he displayed; he answered God’s call. May we all do the same.
RCL – Third Sunday after Pentecost – June 14, 2015
1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 with Psalm 20 or
Ezekiel 17:22-24 with Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15
2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17 or 2 Corinthians 5:6-17
Photos from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.