Image: Sunrise. (pixabay, public domain)
If you think I am writing this to you, yes, I am.
If you think I am writing this about you, yes, I am.
If you think this has nothing to do with you, well, I tried.
!קוּמִי אוֹרִי, כִּי בָא אוֹרֵךְ; וּכְבוֹד יְהוָה, עָלַיִךְ זָרָח
Arise, shine, because your light has come, and the glory of the Holy One will rise upon you! – Isaiah 60:1
We are in a time for spiritual awakening.
Mind you, I’m not claiming that many of us (any of us?) are awake. What I see around me are sleepers, myself included.
We are tempted to read Isaiah 60 as a triumphal psalm, because it speaks so firmly of good things to come, but we must not lose track of verse 2:
For, look, darkness will cover the earth, and fog [upon] the nations; but upon you the Holy One will rise, and the honor of the Eternal shall be seen upon you. – Isaiah 50:2
Never forget that Isaiah speaks as a prophet. He calls us to notice those things we do not want to see. It is very dangerous to assume that because I am [insert category here] that I am one of the people who will eventually be elevated in honor.
We are in a time of trouble, a dark night of the soul. The very climate is disrupted. Everyone (myself included!) point at scapegoats (Trump! Obama! Conservatives! Liberals! Islamists! Terrorists! Lazy people! Greedy people! Rich people! Politicians! The media! Social media! Parents! Kids these days!) Very few take responsibility, least of all me.
Isaiah 60 goes on to tell us that:
Up to now you has been forsaken and hated, so that no one passed you, I will exalt you forever, joy from generation to generation. – Isaiah 60:15
So let’s ask ourselves, honestly: to whom is Isaiah speaking? Is Isaiah talking to me, or is he warning me that someday the people I have forsaken and mistreated will be lifted up, no matter how I disdain them? In his own day, I believe Isaiah was talking to the people of Israel, people who had lost everything, people who had lost their homes, lost many loved ones, and who had been dragged off to work in other people’s houses. Am I one of those people now – or am I their oppressor?
To whatever degree I have benefitted from the sufferings of others, I should take Isaiah 60 as a warning. Is the security in my world provided by threatening the dignity of someone else? Is the peace of my neighborhood sustained by policing that targets someone else? Are my taxes lower because there is stuff I simply don’t want to pay for, and devil take the unfortunate who needs what I won’t buy? Is my own sense of self-worth bolstered by looking down on someone else who lacks my education, my facility with language, or my abilities? Is my righteous attitude supported by a lack of empathy for someone different from me?
As long as I am preoccupied with pointing elsewhere with blame, I am part of the problem. As long as I am unwilling to look into the face of the person utterly different from me and try to love them, I am part of the problem. As long as I refuse to look in the mirror and take responsibility for the behavior of the person I see there, nothing will get better.
What if I were willing to look into the face of the stranger and search out the spark of the Divine?
What if They are not wrong about everything? What if I am not right about everything?
There are those who will say, “They started it. They won’t listen. They are ignorant fools. They will just take advantage and then where will we be?” That is the voice of fear, and from what I can tell, we have been listening to it at least since September 11, 2001, and truly much longer that that. What has it accomplished?
It is time for something new. It is time to listen. It is time to reach out. It is time for compassion and risk-taking.
But how else will we wake from this nightmare?
We are in a time for spiritual awakening. The question is, will we wake up?
This song, “It Won’t Take Long” by Ferron is my alarm clock: