The Gift of Presence
For nearly two weeks, those of us in the Saint Paul Area Synod have been blessed by the presence of ou[...]
This week's reflection is adapted from a sermon delivered in Pommern Parish in August 2014.
I have learned to enjoy flying. This is good because my work involves traveling between America and Tanzania quite regularly.
These days I especially love the short flight from Iringa to Dar es Salaam. As the small plane takes off from Nduli it turns to the East. From the windows you can see the mountains that surround Iringa, the plains near Isimani, and - on a clear day - where the land falls away into the Rift Valley on the way to Mtera. The flight follows the course of the highway. You look down on Ilula and can see where the road to Image goes off into the distance. You see the rushing river near Ruaha Mbuyuni, the way the mountains give way to the flat lands of Mikumi, and then the sprawl of the buildings and roads that make up Dar es Salaam...
These are truly beautiful sights. They make you feel like you are on top of the world. But they are nothing compared to the view that God has...
In Psalm 33, we read:
From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth - he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.
God's view takes in all of the word. It is not limited to a small window in an airplane. God's sees mountains and rivers and cities like we do. But God also sees the heart and soul of all of God's people. God sees everything.
As God looks at the world, what does God see and what does God value?
... Certainly God sees our nations and our leaders and their armies. But do they fill God's chest with a sense of pride? No! As the Psalmist writes, "No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. . . [These things], despite [their] great strength cannot save." Ultimately, they are nothing more than things humans use for or against one another. Ultimately, salvation belongs to the Lord.
Certainly God sees what we have done with God's creation. God sees what we have made with the natural resources he has blessed us with. He sees our tall buildings and our roads and the small items that we make with our hands. He sees our economic systems and how some collect more than their fair share of the resources to grow in wealth and prestige. He sees how a small number of people reap most of the harvest, leaving the majority to go hungry.
He sees that we call this 'success' . . . and it, too, does not fill God's chest with a sense of pride.
If God sees what we see but does not take pride in the things that we take pride, where else does God cast God's vision and in what else might God value?
Again, Psalm 33 provides an answer. The Psalmist writes, " . . . the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine." In short, God's vision and God's favor rests on the poor, the hungry, the imprisoned, and marginalized. God values and takes pride in the places and things that our human view overlooks.
As we accompany one another in God's mission, by God's grace alone, may we seek to train our eyes and our hearts on the same.
The Rev. Peter Harrits
Director of Bega Kwa Bega & Assistant to the Bishop