I can feel the tension as you hold my old, frayed binding. Your fingers grip me with frustration? Worry? Powerlessness? I can hear your prayers, as you seek answers to a very complex reality.
For so long you have looked to me for direction and discernment. In troubled times, you’ve flipped through my pages, dog-eared this, under-lined that and studied. When others were hurting, you’ve been emboldened by my words to care for others, to reach out, let go of your own assumptions and prejudice, in order to help another heal. When others have suffered inequality, you confidently held me in a position of authority as you spoke about justice, diversity and the varying shades of what equality actually means.
And yet, this time, I worry that your concern about the future will lead you to places in which you might not hear me. This has happened before and some of those wounds are still fresh. As you’ve wrestled with choices and made mistakes that have hurt others: whether people of other faiths or your indigenous Sisters and Brothers, it’s hard to recognise and accept how my ancient pages have sometimes been used to confirm the ego, as opposed to reflect the humble faith’s confidence.
And so, as I know you’re discerning, perhaps even afraid and even very tired, I think of some of our stories to share once more. In some, there’s the image of Samaria, one of those places deemed unholy, dirty, on the Outside. Samaria was often judged as impure, where just enough was known about Judaism: ‘a little knowledge can do a lot of damage’ would be the tag-line. In Samaria, the Judean religious leaders were concerned what harm the ignorant Samaritans might do to the faith. And yet, Jesus’ ministry always seemed to run right into its/his own assumptions. Whether it was the Samaritan woman at the well or the hemorrhaging woman in the crowd: when he stopped and listened, he was challenged to change, to open the doors, to let in those whom others would exclude.
Another old story is that of exile … poor Moses walked, and walked and walked. The people always wanting to stop, to build walls, establish rituals, to turn back to what they thought was safe. In this wandering, people can feel like they are even further isolated and alone when they feel called to offer something new, to share a different path in which the crowd might want to go. It’s not an easy journey – faith, it’s even harder when you might have to let go of control, privilege and confront arrogance’s reflection.
I wish I had the answers for which you so desperately long. I wish that you might find the rest you need and the passion for whatever lies ahead. But I worry that as you continue to look into my pages, you might forget that they were never about the inward gaze. They should point beyond and offer direction, a formula, perhaps even a map as how best to go into the world. Maybe now is the time to close me for just a little while, and go out into Samaria to hear what others are saying and doing. Maybe in that experience you might hear the beginnings of how you are called to do new things with old seeds. Jesus – I imagine – at that well was not ready to hear the voice of an outsider. But he paused and listened. When Philip the Deacon, on that long ago road, was asked by the Eunuch to tell him about Jesus, I wonder if he remembered the story of Jesus and the Samaritan. I wonder if – at first – he judged this foreigner, perhaps even dismissed him. But then – he did something amazing – he took the outsider, the Stranger (who others would consider defiled) and taught and baptised him by the river. And then … after he had listened and acted … Philip disappeared! A seed had been planted and whatever the story is or was to be of the Eunuch passed out of my pages …