6 April, Monday – Is God still God?

Monday of Holy Week

Isa 42:1-7
Jn 12:1-11

Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my Spirit

Early in the New Year, the Spiritual Director (SD) of the centre we serve in called for a leadership change of all Ministry Heads. This was made known to us (the current core team) in early January. A series of events occurred after this and before Chinese New Year, we were told we had to put in proposed names for the new leadership during the Chinese New Year break. I think we were given a week or so to vote and select the new team. We somehow managed to vote the new team, update our existing members of what was happening and finally put up the proposed list to our SD. Naturally, in the process, there were discussions on how the transition should happen from the ‘Old’ to the ‘New’ – knowledge handover, timing…etc.

During this period, I was experiencing some change within myself. I have felt, for a long while now, that it was time for me to move on from the ministry I have been in for 9 years — I needed to grow, use my ‘talents’ in other areas, I needed to be fed spiritually. The last 6 years have been focussed on ‘service’ and not the ‘pastoral’ aspects. During this period, the centre itself was going through change and transition. We had been through a roller coaster ride the past few years. And to me, it was getting a bit …dry. It’s a dichotomy. On the one hand, people who have come for the retreats and talks have had such life-changing experiences. Yet, many in the ministry felt somewhat ‘dead’ and deflated.

As such, this change was something that was needed – a new way to look at and do things. Change is uncomfortable but good. Change keeps everyone on our toes. Change brings forth fresh thinking. But change is never easy. This has been a long time coming; previous attempts have not been too successful. Past spiritual directors simply didn’t want to ‘rock the boat’, some tried but, given the complexity of the ministries and leadership personalities, made little headway. 

As much as I welcome this change, I felt that our SD was pushing things through a little too quickly, without thinking though the process or the implications. I felt he was stubborn, not listening to reason. At the same time, I felt a little frustrated with our ‘Old’ leaders casting a long shadow over the ‘New’ ones. I felt angry, frustrated and frankly I am so ready to walk away from all of this, ready to look for ‘greener’ pastures, I wanted to feel alive again.

The backstory to today’s first reading is — God delivered his people from bondage in Egypt, made a covenant with them, and brought them through wilderness into the land of Canaan. They became a nation and built a temple for the Lord. For centuries, they saw military victories and defeats under kings and generals. They strayed from God’s covenant but prophets called them back. Then, in the sixth century BCE, the unthinkable happened — the Babylonians defeated Israel. They destroyed the temple, plundered Israel’s treasure and livelihoods, took them into bondage, and marched them back to the gates of Babylon in chains.

The Babylonian victory over Israel was absolute. This was utter, complete devastation of the political, social, economic and religious life God’s people had known for centuries. Imagine just how devastating it was for God’s chosen people to be handed over to enemies, humiliated and destroyed, taken into bondage; all while God did not intervene to stay with His divine hand the terrible defeat.

This reminds me of the situation we are in at the centre. God has led us to this point. It may not be ideal, it may not even be great. It may seem we are in our desert days. But it speaks to me. Who am I to judge why things are the way they are? Why are certain things done when it’s against all human logic? There have been several conversations and discussions; and many threw their hands up in frustration. And today, with the cessation of all activities everywhere due to the coronavirus pandemic, things haven’t moved. Perhaps this is a good thing (not the pandemic). Perhaps it’s just good to pause.  Until he establishes justice on the earth; the coastlands will wait for his teaching.

Israel was abandoned to its enemies. Had God abandoned them? Has God abandoned us too at this time, both at our spirituality centre, and in the middle of this virus pandemic? Is God still God?

God is the God who “who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spreads out the earth with its crops.” This is the God of creation, who made everything that is, and who dwells in this wide, open space, not contained by the cramped space of exile. This is the God who gives breath to its people and spirit to those who walk on it. God’s breath animates not only the people of Israel, but us, here and now! Every living, breathing creature on the planet. And finally, this is also the God who has reached out to create the particular people called Israel, to call them to righteousness, and to keep them. This is the God of the expansive universe and the God of these very particular people. He is our God. No, He has not abandoned us. We just need to patiently wait to see what He is up to!

I may not understand the things that are happening. I may not understand why our Spiritual Director was sent and for the decisions he makes. But God sent him! In Jesus, God again sends a servant who will bring justice, who God “anoints to bring good news to the poor . . . proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and declare the year of the Lord’s favour”

I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Jesus, our light and our salvation. In you, we have nothing to fear. We wait for you, in courage!

Thanksgiving: Thank you for the many times you lead us even to seemingly desolate places. Thank you Jesus, for coming into the world as a light that darkness cannot overcome.

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