Friday's daily office readings are tough, with a great deal of woe and punishment in them. However in the gospel reading there is one sentence that resonates with me.
...and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’
It is an easy thing look back at moments in history and say 'I would never have done that.' I would never have: owned people as slaves, driven indigenous people from their land, paid unfair wages, watched as neighbors were loaded in to trains to death camps, bought land and possessions dirt cheap from people forced to sell because the government decided they were the enemy based on fear rather than evidence.
However, people did do that. Not just one person, entire generations have taken advantage of their neighbors in crisis. It is easy to look back on the horrors of history and presume that we would be one of the few who stood up for their neighbors, the few who were injured or killed trying to stop the tide of evil choices washing over them. However, I suspect it is difficult, in that moment, to see where one can take action.
When we are enmeshed in day-to-day survival how much energy or intention do we have to step back and see where things are going wrong?
This section of the Gospel of Matthew ends with:
For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’
This, then is the call to action in this reading. There is still hope that God will come among us if we make room in our lives for those who come from the Lord.
However, I think sometimes 'those who come from the Lord' needs to be us. We need to spend time in prayer finding our way forward in the world as followers of Jesus and then we need to take action in God's name.
Time in prayer can help us pull back from everyday world and help keep us from being swept into the cultural currents without thinking.
Time spent acting in the world can remind us of our power to resist that current. It is hard work and when we are tired, then it is time to return to prayer to find a way forward once more.
This may sound like prayer is a passive thing, but to me prayer is internal action and can be done in many ways from kneeling in church to walking in the woods, from reading books to cycling through the daily office. Whatever helps the individual tune into God (and not just their own thoughts) can be a form of prayer. Prayer is an action that changes the pray'er and helps prepare them to take action in the world.
If we are truly going to be the kind of people that resist going with the flow of evil deeds, if we are going to be the people that history will see as the ones willing to stand up for the weak and suffer the consequences or that action, then we need to be a people who take time out from our daily life to put down roots in our faith so the water can't sweep us away easily.
This essay was originally published on 15 Dec 2017 at Speaking to the Soul: Roots of Faith