The Waystead is a Hermitage of the Lindisfarne Community, established with the intent to foster the love of God in the world. My resolve is to follow the Way of the One in Whom we live and move and have our Being.
I trust that by thoughtfully founding, and steadfastly keeping, a dwelling place and setting it apart as a place of prayer, reflection, and contemplation, I will be able to hold onto that resolve.
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Meagerness In My Soul
14 In the desert they
gave way to insatiable greed;
in the wastelands they
put God to the test.
15 He gave them what
but sent meagerness
into their souls.
2 Kings 21:1-18
14 I will abandon the
remnant of my heritage, delivering them into the power of their enemies — they
will become prey and plunder for all their enemies;15 because they have done what is evil from
my perspective and have provoked me to anger from the day their ancestors came
out of Egypt to this very day.’”
1 Corinthians 10:14-11:1
You say, “Why should
my freedom be determined by someone else’s conscience?30 If I participate with thankfulness, why am
I criticized over something for which I myself bless God?”31 Well, whatever you do, whether it’s eating
or drinking or anything else, do it all so as to bring glory to God.32 Do not be an obstacle to anyone — not to
Jews, not to Gentiles, and not to God’s Messianic Community.
33 The swineherds
fled, went off to the town and told the whole story, including what had
happened to the demonized men.34 At
this, the whole town came out to meet Yeshua. When they saw him, they begged
him to leave their district.
“Sent meagerness into their souls.”
“Thus provoking him to anger.”
“Do not be an obstacle to anyone.”
“They begged him to leave their district.”
Everyone is troubled nowadays by the notion of God’s anger.
I’m not sure why this should be, except that in today’s world, there are no examples of trustworthy anger. Angry
people are dangerous, unpredictable, abusive, selfish, and liable to hurt you
because their anger pushes them out of control. I have a friend whose adoptive
nephew killed his own baby in a fit of rage, punching it to death.
Even the abbess of my own order struggles with the idea of
God’s anger, debating with herself if the image of God as a violent defender,
meting out punishment, is “an acceptable image.”
What troubles me is the idea that we should understand God
by comparing God to us, that is, to human beings. I think a better
understanding might be more accessible if we simply ‘reverse the polarity’ and ask
ourselves how our anger might be comparable to God’s, rather than flinching at
our conception of how God’s anger is like ours.
Psalm 7 says God is ‘angry every day’. “12 (11)
God is a righteous judge, a God whose anger is present every day.” I found
that phrase while I was delving into Hebrew and rabbinical sources looking for
the words for God’s anger. Many of the words led to trivial but interesting
information, such as the Hebrews believed that the seat of anger was in the
nose, and that the heat of anger was like the heat in your body that you feel
after you have been bitten by a poisonous snake. I decided that those tidbits
were not particularly useful to me, but what did strike me was one source talking about God’s anger being held
back, and that the key to understanding the nature of God’s anger was in
that withholding. “Is there wrath
before God? Yes, "God is angry every day" (Ps. vii. 12, Heb.)—that
is, for a brief moment imperceptible to any creature: "For his anger
endureth but a moment; in his favor is life" (Ps. xxx. 6), or, again,
"Hide thyself for a little moment until the wrath [A. V. "indignation"]
is passed" (Isa. xxvi. 20).” Also the same commentator said this: “This withholding of wrath by God is the
"righteousness" or mercies spoken of in Micah, vi. 5.” http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/1523-anger
So, I tried to think of times when I was certain that the
anger I felt was justified, but I withheld it, not reacting according to my
outrage, but acting instead in accordance with a commonly held concept of justice.
Two occasions immediately sprang to mind, both from my experience as a police officer.
The first was during an investigation that led to the recapture of a female
escapee from the ankle monitor program. We were able to locate and arrest her
because she was using social media to pimp her own mother to get money for
drugs. Think about that for a minute—selling her own mother’s services as a
prostitute, and taking the money to buy drugs for her own use! The other was my
arrest of a man who had shoplifted items from a grocery store by hiding them in
his 8-year-old daughter’s coat pockets. I can still remember how badly I wanted
to punch him in the face after I looked at that bewildered, tearful little
girl, who wasn’t sure that she hadn’t done something wrong. I remember asking
the grocery store manager to take her out of the office so she wouldn’t have to
see and hear the whole process of her father getting a citation, and so that I
could cut loose and give him “the sharp side of my tongue,” as my grandmother
would say. Imagine it for a minute—you’re eight years old, and your father
furtively puts things in the pockets of your puffy purple coat and tells you
not to say anything when you go through the cash register!
I am certain that my anger was entirely righteous and
justified both of those times. The whole point is that I wasn’t angry on my own
behalf, I was angry on account of the harm done to another, and the blindly pernicious
disregard of basic human decency shown by the culprits. Still, I didn’t put
myself in charge of the punishment that should be meted out.
Well, who is
ultimately in charge? God is Love, but how does Love act when justice is called
for? God can’t look to a consensus, or a commonly agreed upon rule of law to
which God is subject along with everyone else. As a police officer, my authority to arrest and
charge people with crimes came from a mandate issued on behalf of the social
contract. God’s authority doesn’t work like that.
I want to go back to the first phrase now, “sent
meagerness into their souls.” I keep thinking of the phrase, “tough love.”
Tough love is an interactive model which is meant to help friends and relatives
to stop enabling a person to continue avoiding the consequences of their
behavior. An example might be letting an alcoholic person stay passed out on
the kitchen floor, instead of cleaning them up and putting them to bed. In this
way, the person has to experience the consequences of their actions. Another example
might be enforcing a harsh rule such as, “If you bring drugs into the house,
you will have to move out and not live here anymore.”
(Just a note: we empathize, and understand why parents
might choose to be that harsh and ‘unforgiving’, and how doing that might
actually help a person to change for the better, but we can’t seem to
understand it if God does the exact same thing….?)
Wouldn’t it be
amazing if, even while letting someone do what they want; letting them keep going
after things that are bad for them; keep right on doing drugs or getting drunk
and passing out on the floor, if somehow we could take the flavor out of it for
them? What if we could collapse their fantasy and break the feedback loop they
are stuck in by letting them have what they want, but making it so they got no
pleasure or satisfaction from it? What if we could, like God, send dissatisfaction
(meagerness) into their souls? I
would do it if I could!
So here’s a scary question—could it be that our trouble with
the idea of an angry God comes from our desire to keep on doing what we want
without having to bear the consequences? Could it be that we don’t want to
accept that we all are in the same boat together, right along with the
shoplifter hiding things in an innocent child’s pocket; with the daughter selling
her mother’s sexual favors for money; with the young man who punched his baby
to death? Could it be that we imagine God to be like us, instead of us being
One more daunting thought—if God wasn’t ‘angry
every day’, if God never “handed us over” to ourselves to suffer the
consequences, where would we be then? I think we would be abandoned, bereft,
hopeless, and utterly lost. Another source I found on the internet said
something like this: ‘Everything we know about God’s love, mercy, justice and
goodness needs to be poured into our understanding of God’s wrath.’ The same
source said that God’s anger is not like our anger. So, God’s anger has to be a good thing!
Back to the readings: I think I’ve found the connecting
thread. The warning is about the danger of seeing the world in terms of “us and
them;” about thinking in terms of “God and us.” It’s about the danger of seeing
others consciences as threats to our freedom, and about the implications of not
wanting ‘do-gooders’ in our neighborhood.
So, taking hold of the thread and following it wherever it
I follow the smell of
dissatisfaction and it leads me to—things worth being angry about.
I take hold of the cost
of my anger and it guides me to—learning how not to be an obstacle to anyone.
I edge past the blockade
of my own opinions—and leave the neighborhood when I’m not welcome.
Lectionaries are funny things— weird, abstruse little lists
of biblical passages by number, sort of like tide tables or bus schedules. Today’s
Lectionary passages (for 3-9-2018, the week of the third Sunday in Lent) are:
Psalm 88; Genesis 47:1-26; 1 Corinthians 9:16-27; and Mark 6:47-56 About a month ago I posted a reflection in response to
Abbess Jane’s Lectionary Musings blog on the same passage from Corinthians as the
one listed for today in the Daily Office Readings Lectionary (BCP). That was
supposed to be the reading for the 6th Sunday of Epiphany, according
to +Jane, but I just can’t find it anywhere. I looked up Epiphany 6 in both the
Daily Office Lectionary and the Revised Common Lectionary—not there. It’s not
the reading from the Lindisfarne Community’s A Way of Living Lectionary for
either Year 1 or 2 either. Oh well. I was never the sort of autist who is fascinated by such
things as bus schedules. I am much more inclined to be enthralled by maps. I
wonder if I could make a L…
On Sunday the Psalm was the famous 23rd.
I’ve heard it so many times that I never expected anything new to come
wandering across the border from that hinterland, but there ya go. So, the
liminal phrase is this: “Your rod and your staff they comfort me,” or as
the CJB says, “your rod and staff reassure me.” I got to thinking, “Well, just exactly how does a shepherd
use a staff and a rod?” The staff is used to guide the sheep and to catch them.
Traditional staffs used in the UK have horn crooks with a sharp curled tip,
which I suspect is designed to catch in the fleece. The rod was essentially a
club used to defend against predators, but also as a goad to correct the sheep.
I’ve never really identified with the sheep; I mean they are
really not very smart and don’t have much of a survival instinct. I also have
misgivings about identifying myself as the shepherd of the sheep. So, I asked
myself, “What other role might I fill in the whole sheep-shepherd metaphor?”
and it came to me: Shee…
1 Corinthians 13:1-13 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) 4 Love is patient and kind, not jealous, not boastful, 5 not proud, rude or selfish, not easily angered,
and it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not gloat over other people’s sins
but takes its delight in the truth. 7 Love always bears up, always trusts,
always hopes, always endures.
I’ve read this over about five times now, and it keeps on
growing in my mind. The above is only a part of the verse cited, but it’s the
part that kept reaching out and poking me. It’s the part that I felt was
reading me; the part that was peering
into my heart to see what is going on in there. It’s the part that sat down in
front of me with a questioning look on its face, put its chin in its hand, and
looked at me without saying anything. And kept on looking. Eventually I started noticing specific things; I started trying
to see what the verse was looking at in me. I noticed that it started out by
talking about what love is; then what it isn’t; then back …