Written by the Rev. Jeanne Tyler
The question of justice is one of exclusion.
Persistent God, who never lets us go, come to us in this gathering. Open our minds and our hearts to wrestle with your words. Teach us not to sit politely by when we are not welcomed as the unique people we are. Help us to love ourselves as much as we love you, so that your gift of creating us in your image is not wasted on others or us. Help us be teachers and learners. Help us to follow your ways made straight in the wilderness. We ask this in the name of Jesus, the Christ. Amen.
ISAIAH 35; LUKE 18:1-9
A SENSE OF HOMECOMING 1S the vision found in Isaiah, chapter 35. The way home from exile is an ecological treasure-with the land being glad and full of blooms. The dry, inhospitable, and even dangerous desert will be transformed. It shall be filled with streams of water and a way will be found through it.
Best of all, the people who could be most easily left behind-the weak, the lame, the blind, the deaf, those unable to speak-will come to the forefront. All will be included, accepted, and affirmed at the center and the whole will be made holy. We will be a sign of God’s presence in all our glory and differences.
The question of justice is one of exclusion. Isaiah knew the vulnerable ones who might not make it home. Those with disabilities might not have enough strength or mobility to make the way home. They might be left behind because they were too much trouble. Were they even good enough to come home?
As the land is transformed, so are the people. Those on the edges are now the center. Those with disabilities are not forgotten, not relegated to the least, or even out-of-sight, out of mind. Isaiah knew that any good homecoming is inclusive of all abilities.
Isaiah also invites us to look at deserts and see crocuses in bloom, look at the little paths and imagine a highway, feel the fear of wild animals and know the safety of God. Isaiah invites us to know ourselves as whole and holy. The whole of creation changes, is transformed as we change our perception of ourselves and our abilities and disabilities.
I was one of those who questioned if I was good enough to come home. I was born with mild cerebral palsy and a hearing loss. I have struggled to hear and be understood. I struggled to walk. And I struggled to know in whose image I was created.
In Genesis, it says that God created humankind in the image of God, God created them male and female. One day I was meditating on this line, trying to get myself around this so I could more fully understand. There I was in the library of Chicago Theological Seminary, looking at my hand, and I understood that I was in the image of God. My hand, which could not take good notes or write well, was “in the image of God:” My hand, which spilt coffee and took more time to do dishes, was “in the image of God:” My hand, which I would have gladly traded was “in the image of God” and the rest of me as well. By the grace of God, I knew myself as in the image of God. I could come home.
In the Gospel of Luke (18:1-7), there is a story from which I gain great strength. There is a woman, a widow, a woman without a man to speak for her. She must be alone. She should be powerless, but she is strong and determined. She does not take “no” for an answer from this judge who neither fears God nor regards humans. Can you see this woman dressed in black, perhaps bent over a little but with an attitude? What a hoot! She has been wronged, and she knows the judge can vindicate her if he wants. At first, the judge refuses her. He does not need to bother with her case. She is just a widow with another story of injustice. It does not concern him. She comes again to him with this same request, or is it a demand? And again she comes and again….
Finally, he says to himself, “Though I neither fear God nor regard humans, yet because this widow bothers me, I will vindicate her or she will wear me out by her continual coming:” And, he does.
A persistent woman won, and our lives are enriched with justice! With inner strength and fierce determination, she received justice from this judge that neither feared humanity nor God. This attitude drives us to claim our place in a world that often does not want to trouble with us. We can draw courage from this deep well of stories about inclusion at the center of a redeemed life.
Coming home to self is coming home to God. Coming home to God is coming home to self. Persevering, demanding justice, demanding a place at the table is faithful work for us all.
1. When do you see yourself in the image of God? Do you? Why? Why not?
2. When do you see others in the image of God? Is it easier to see others than yourself?
3. What sense do you make of the visions of redemption and hope in the Hebrew Scriptures? Can they be updated to our time? How?
“All God’s Children Got a Place in the Choir”
Women’s Mosaic Series 2002
Margaret (Peg) Slater, Editor