The path to restoration

Homily – Sunday, the 7th August 2022

Reading: Isaiah 1:10-20

Have you imagined being invited for a meal with the Queen of England or some dignitary of that stature? What preparations do we make? What protocols do we study? What kind of presentability would we look at? What etiquettes of language and behaviour would we be thinking of?

Isaiah the prophet is offering a more profound invitation. For a conversation with the Master of the Universe

Have you tried to comprehend the pain of parents who see their children go wayward?

It is such a pain that Isaiah depicts in Chapter 1

Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth;
    for the Lord has spoken:
I reared children and brought them up,
    but they have rebelled against me.
The ox knows its owner,
    and the donkey its master’s crib;
but Israel does not know,
    my people do not understand.

The reason for the pain is also explained

Ah, sinful nation,
    people laden with iniquity,
offspring who do evil,
    children who deal corruptly,
who have forsaken the Lord,
    who have despised the Holy One of Israel,
    who are utterly estranged!

The situation of the utterly estranged and broken community is then depicted. But the prophet does not want to leave it with a painting of gloom but presents a roadmap to restoration and joy. He suggests a pathway to reconciliation and a fresh beginning.

Let us look at what the prophets suggests as the expectations of the Almighty

Wash yourselves and make yourselves clean

Ceremonial washing was an integral part of Ancient Near Eastern traditions. Therefore, wash yourselves clean was a phrase known to them. It immediately connected to all those unacceptable in the presence of the Divine.

Washing is not just a physical experience it could also be about washing your emotional garbage- the enmity and grudge you carry with you against people and the unethical rendezvous you engage in. In many instances it could also be about the healing of painful memories

“There is no mess that cannot be cleaned up”.
The piled up mess and the cobwebs around need be attended to
Garbage needs to be taken out and gotten rid of lest it stinks
Once all things that need to be chucked away is taken out you need a thorough wash
This process could be true in our lives too

The practical and pertinent question we ought to ask ourselves is this- What would we want to wash away from our lives given a chance

Remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes

At Sunday School we were told the eyes of the Lord are always watching over you and God sees all that you do, hears all that you say and even can grasp what you conjure in your mind. If you are continuing to do evil- and yes the Prophets lists what that evil is- the call is to remove that from before the eyes of the Lord. It is all about  Blotting Away

The only way of removing the evil doing is desiring a new beginning. The recognition that it is not worth continuing in the path of evil is what we call the conversion moment.

A new beginning cannot happen by not addressing the past. The promise of forgiveness does not mean that the consequences of evil need not be addressed meaningfully.

When the cross offers opportunities of fixing our challenges sometimes we behave like Obstinate, a neighbour of Christian’s in the City of Destruction in the Pilgrim’s Progress of John Bunyan who refuses to accompany him into the new possibilities of laying down the back-pack.

Cease to do evil

The Problem of Evil is that it Persists. It keeps asking if God is all powerful how can evil continue to exist. We are taught primarily of four kinds of evil

Sadistic Evil: Evil that finds joy in the Pain of Others

Structural Evil that is perpetuated for the profit of few at the expense of others. It is subtly embedded into the system making people think it is normal and fine.

Lofty evil– Evil done proclaiming a noble cause. The Crusades for Instance. One of the moving moments of Lambeth was when the Bishop of Amritsar shared of the Archbishop’s Apology at Jalian Wala Bag.

Avoidable Evil– Evil that happens due to human negligence. A road accident- a plane crash. Evil for a personal gain- robbery.

We must keep in mind the warning of Friedrich Nietzsche “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster” Don’t also forget that most of the evil in this world is done in the pretext of fighting evil.

Learn to do good

In one of my house-visits in the dining table was a question- What was your sunshine moment of the day? That was basically about one good moment, one good thing, one act of yours that brought in a smile in another, one act of yours that wiped a tear of another, one act of yours that brought in hope in another.

Doing good is a far deeper reality that could impact the neighbour and the larger world in ways we cannot imagine.

Think of a card you send to a lonely person, an encouraging note you sent to a person in the hospital, a visit to a person who needed company badly, a hug to one who was longing for a hug for some time. Little acts of kindness could be the beginning of greater good. It is said the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

Seek Justice

One of my previous assignments was to engage in a transition of the Charitable Society of the Diocese  to the Department of Social Justice. Caring for the Orphan, Caring for the Abandoned, for the disabled, for the prisoners and the families, caring for the elderly, caring for the marginalised were all clubbed under activities of charity until we were taught that the paradigm should change. It is the right and entitlement of each of those persons to be cared. The affirmation of that right is justice

It was Langston Hughes who said

That Justice is a blind goddess
Is a thing to which we black are wise:
Her bandage hides two festering sores
That once perhaps were eyes.

The four kinds of justice that we are traditionally taught need mentioning here, but justice is a far deeper reality

Distributive Justice- Fair dividing
Procedural Justice- Ensuring a Fair Process
Restorative Justice- Bringing back to normalcy lives affected by injustice
Retributive justice- punishment to the offence committed

Justice calls for indignation at every violation of justice. It was Ernesto Che Guevara who said  “If you tremble with indignation at every injustice then you are a comrade of mine.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer  reminded us in Germany “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”

And it was Martin Luther King Jr. who reminded us “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals and communities.”

Rescue the oppressed

Yesterday at men’s breakfast we talked about a woman who had to flee from her homeland in Serbia during the World War. Her mother was pregnant and therefore was not sent to Siberia but instead to the internment camps. At five she endured the pain of fleeing barefoot in cold winter- never to return to what she called home and never again to call another place home. The memory of oppression is lingering fresh with her. How do we rescue the oppressed when we still perpetuate war and violence and continue to oppress people and allow more and more people go through the same trauma.

Around us we see

  • The Religiously Oppressed Communities
  • The Ethnically Oppressed Communities
  • The Economically Oppressed Communities
  • The Racially Oppressed Communities
  • The Sexually Oppressed Communities
  • The People Living with Disabilities and the Excluded Communities
  • The Gender Oppressed Community- Plight of girl children
  • The Minority Communities in hostile settings
  • The entire creation that faces oppression in forms inexplicable

How do we rescue the oppressed?

Defend the Orphan and Plead for the Widow

It was the responsibility of the faith community to look after

  • Widow- did not have the support of the spouse
  • Orphan- did not have the support of the parents
  • Poor- did not have the support of resources
  • Sick- did not have the support of health
  • Foreigner- did not have the support of the home nation

The defence of the last, the lost and the least was always the central focus of God’s expectation.

It is not about othering them and seeing them as objects of care but of owning them and ensuring fullness of life to them.

The Promise of Restoration

  1. Though your sins are as Scarlet they shall be white as snow
  2. Though they be red as crimson they shall become like wool
  3. If you are willing and obedient you shall eat the good of the land

Our response is simple- Lord the Light of Your Love is Shining, In the midst of the darkness shining

Vinod Victor

August 7, 2022

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