Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Book of the Twelve for Lent 2016



The Book of the Twelve for Lent 2016
Seeing the World from Below – Micah (4)
          
 As a part of his great vision of the day when God will set all things right Micah writes the following:
“In that day, says the Lord,
    I will assemble the lame
    and gather those who have been driven away,
    and those whom I have afflicted.
The lame I will make the remnant,
    and those who were cast off, a strong nation;
and the Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion
    now and forevermore.” (4:6-7)

          As Dietrich Bonhoeffer reflected on his experience of resistance to the Nazis in the 1930’s-40’s in Germany he writes:

“There remains an experience of incomparable value. We have for once learnt to see the great events of world history from below, from the perspective of the outcast, the suspects, the maltreated, the powerless, the oppressed, the reviled – in short, from the perspective of those who suffer. The important thing is neither that bitterness nor envy should have gnawed at the heart during this time, that we should have come to look with new eyes at matters great and small, sorrow and joy, strength and weakness, that our perception of generosity, humanity, justice and mercy should have become clearer, freer, less corruptible. We have to learn that personal suffering is a more effective key, a more rewarding principle for exploring the world in thought and action than personal good fortune. This perspective from below must not become the partisan possession of those who are eternally dissatisfied; rather, we must do justice to life in all its dimensions from a higher satisfaction, whose foundation is beyond any talk of ‘from below’ or ‘from above’. This is the way in which we may affirm it.”

Bonhoeffer learned what many of us in the US church have failed to see: God works from and for those on the bottom of the social and economic heap. Only when they are well and cared for and provided opportunity and access to productive lives can things ever be right with the rest of the world.

Advocacy, nay, solidarity with those who “suffer,” who are put out and put upon by the stronger and less scrupulous, gives us the “new eyes” Bonhoeffer speaks of to see the reality of the world in a way not possible from a position of privilege and comfort. Being “with” the poor, needy, ostracized, and nobodies, grants us a “perspective from below” which, as Bonhoeffer says, “is a more effective key, a more rewarding principle for exploring the world in thought and action than personal good fortune. God himself sees (that is, “experiences” in Christ) the world from below where nothing is right and toward one where he will set all things right. The world described above by Micah.

The Civil Rights struggle here in the 50’s and 60’s modeled this solidarity with those below for a brave few whites. Liberation theology a generation later gave voice to it in the Americas. But it has not, by and large, not been embraced seriously or by many at least in our part of the continent. Yet this is just where God would have us be. It’s where he came among us in Jesus Christ. And as one of them effected God’s intention to set all things right. And calls his followers to be with and among them till kingdom come! This is the only place from which we can see rightly and live Christianly! Thanks be to God!

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