bible blog 1589

The readngs are from the catholic lectionary for daily mass  while the headline is meant to keep my thinking real:



13 The Lord has said:

“These people praise me
with their words,
but they never really
think about me.
They worship me by repeating
made up by humans.

So once again I will do things
that shock and amaze them,
and I will destroy the wisdom
of those who claim to know
and understand.”

You are in for trouble,
if you try to hide your plans
from the Lord!
Or if you think what you do
in the dark can’t be seen.

You have it all backwards.
A clay dish doesn’t say
to the potter,
“You didn’t make me.
You don’t even know how.”

Soon the forest of Lebanon
will become a field with crops,
thick as a forest.

The deaf will be able to hear
whatever is read to them;
the blind will be freed
from a life of darkness.

The poor and the needy
will celebrate and shout
because of the Lord,
the holy God of Israel.

All who are cruel and arrogant
will be gone forever.
Those who live by crime
will disappear,

together with everyone
who tells lies in court
and keeps innocent people
from getting a fair trial.

In Isaiah’s day, books were very expensive as they had to be copied by scribes and the vellum made into a scroll by bookmakers. Book knowldege however could be gained by listening to a book being read aloud by a teacher, an official, or a priest. Deaf people were cut off from this source of knowledge. When Isaiah imagines the coming of God’s justice in the world, he sees deaf people given back their hearing and able to have access to book knowledge. Probably Isaiah was a court scholar with access to books, and this little detail reveals his respect for the tools of his trade. God’s goodness, he thinks, will have very practical results. In biblical religion, the holy goodness of God has not a lot to do with what people think is religious. It doesn’t lead to lots of ecstatic prayer or intimate meditation or enlightened states of mind. It allows the deaf to hear the words of a book, the blind to be freed from darkness, the innocent man to have a fair trial. No wonder it is greeted with enthusiasm by the poor and the needy. On the other hand it’s bad news for the cruel and arrogant, along with other criminals, who will be swept away on a wave of justice.

the gift of hearing

the gift of hearing

The distance between this prophetic faith in God and the usual gospel of the Christian Church is a measure of how much the good news of Jesus Messiah, who honoured the prophets, has been contaminated by religion. There are to be sure differences between Jesus and the prophets, but they are at one in their rejection of religious activity, in favour of receiving and transmitting  the goodness of God. When I see Pope Francis, as for example this week in Turkey, I am simultaneously moved by his commitment to justice and and repelled by the nauseating religious pomp which accompanies his every movement. No matter how often he articulates his vision of God’s goodness it is undermined by the trappings of his office. To some extent his delemma is shared by all mainstream Christian Churches and their salaried  staff, such as me.

How can the gift of faith become as simple as the gift of hearing to a deaf person?

…….. or as the gifft of sight to the blind?

Matthew 9:27-31 ©
As Jesus went on his way two blind men followed him shouting, ‘Take pity on us, Son of David.’ And when Jesus reached the house the blind men came up with him and he said to them, ‘Do you believe I can do this?’ They said, ‘Sir, we do.’ Then he touched their eyes saying, ‘Your faith deserves it, so let this be done for you.’ And their sight returned. Then Jesus sternly warned them, ‘Take care that no one learns about this.’ But when they had gone, they talked about him all over the countryside.

Instruments of God's goodness, Christian Aid emergency pack

Instruments of God’s goodness, Christian Aid emergency pack

My experience is that people are ready to believe the church when it does some good, as it often does while maybe regarding it as a sideshow; whereas of Jesus it could be said, “He went about doing good.” I don’t mean to reverse the order of the great commandments: we will not know what goodness is unless we love God. Learning to love God is our domestic business. But our business in the world is to be a channel of God’s goodness.

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