Prayer before reading:
Lord Jesus Christ,
You call us to come
To be with you.
By your Spirit help me
To see you,
To hear you,
To receive your Spirit,
To be led by your Spirit.
Read slowly. Listen deeply. Indwell the scripture.
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
This week the lectionary readings lead us into two stories, the first in Exodus and the second in Matthew. While the two groups of persons we encounter are separated by hundreds of years in time, and by a number of miles on the map, we discover that the Israelites in the wilderness narrative in Exodus, and the Jewish religious leaders who debate the source of Jesus’ authority in the gospel narrative, both suffer from a resistant form of spiritual blindness: they refuse to recognize and acknowledge God’s guidance and presence so evident among them.
We are infected with the same strain of blindness in the west today, especially in the church. A strand of rationalistic empirical thinking still causes spiritual blindness, so much so that most church members fear they maybe judged as crazy if they talk about the spiritual experiences which they have. If they do talk about their encounter with something beyond the physical realm, these persons usually avoid engaging in conversation with pastors or church leaders – because they find that most religious leaders don’t believe that such things happen.
It is this refusal to be hospitable to the presence and work of God among us which becomes a major factor in the migration of persons from the church. These spiritual migrants either quit their search altogether, or seek for spiritual nurture elsewhere beyond the church. People come to church looking for God, not for more programs.
Jesus lives and moves among those who live on the margins – these spiritual migrants. As we listen to his guidance in the Matthew narrative, he shows us that the religious leaders who do not know or recognize who he is, prevent others from entering the gracious rule and sphere of God. But at the same time, those on the margins are finding their way – because their eyes are open to see and know Jesus, and because they do turn and follow him.
Persons who offer spiritual direction – the ministry of companioning persons as they reflect on their own life and soul narrative in order to discern the presence and work of God in their lives – discover that a number of these spiritual migrants come knocking at their door, anxious and yet desiring to find a safe place to tell their story to someone who will truly hear and be hospitable to their spiritual experience. Someone who will help them discern what God’s invitation might be. Someone who will make sense of the ways in which the Spirit of God/Jesus is speaking into their lives.
Spiritual directors – these companions of the soul – may also find themselves marginalized within the church at large, for the same reason as those who become spiritual migrants. However, as this ancient and biblical ministry of spiritual discernment continues to be restored to us, and gradually finds acceptance beyond and within the church, this resistant strain of spiritual blindness is being tended. The divine physician is present and at work.
The healing of soul-blindness restores a deep-seated peace in persons living in this anxiety-ridden world, and results in a quiet but healthy enthusiasm which fuels their willingness to live generously and beyond themselves for the sake of others in the name of Jesus.
Loving God, who walks among us, by your Spirit
open our eyes to see and know you, for the sake
of your love and the sake of others who are
seeking a home for their soul.
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost:
- 9/19 Monday: Matthew 21:23-27
- 9/20 Tuesday: Matthew 21:28-32
- 9/21 Wednesday: Psalm 78:1-4,12-16
- 9/22 Thursday: Philippians 2:1-13
- 9/23 Friday: Exodus 17:1-7
- 9/24 Saturday: Matthew 21:23-27
- 9/25 Sunday: Matthew 21:28-32