Friday, July 8, 2011
I have been spending a little time lately in the book of Judges. These are some very special people. The Judges of Israel. Of course the first important thing we have to do is define what exactly, and Old Testament Judge is. If we think in terms of modern judges, we will miss the point entirely. The best way to understand the Judges is to understand a critical pattern that is present throughout the book of Judges. The pattern starts with the people feeling really close to God. It may be that things were going well, it may be that God had delivered them from their enemies, but for whatever reason the people were close to God. The worshipped God. Were excited about God, were faithful to God.
But then something happened. What happened is that the people forgot about God. They got careless. They started focusing on other priorities. They starting valuing other things. They even started worshiping other God….Hmmm.. sound like anyone you know? A little bit like us? Perhaps?
What happened is that life was “not so good” Oppression, defeat, “bad times.” That was the bad news.
The Good News was that even then God sent “Judges” to save…Judges. Not legal eagles. Not well trained professionals. Just people who loved God and whom God used, God appointed, to help his people. To provide motivation, focus, faith, leadership, help, who God provided to bring the people back to God, and bring deliverance.
And these were not very special people. Just regular people. In fact not even really normative. They were in fact an odd bunch. Odd saviors. Lets start with Othniel… he was a younger brother. Younger brothers, in biblical times, we kind of “nobodies.” The land, the power, the position all went to brother number one (sorry women, you were out of it from the very beginning).
Or we can look at the next Judge, Ehud… left handed man… gasp, a freakHistorically, the left side, and subsequently left-handedness, was considered negative in many cultures. The Latin word sinistra originally meant "left" but took on meanings of "evil" or "unlucky" by the Classical Latin era, and this double meaning survives in European derivatives of Latin, and in the English word "sinister".
Alternatively, sinister comes from the Latin word sinus meaning "pocket": a traditional Roman toga had only one pocket, located on the left side. The right hand has historically been associated with skill: the Latin word for right-handed is dexter, as in "dexterity", meaning manual skill. Even the word "ambidexterity" reflects the bias. Its intended meaning is "skillful on both sides". However, since it keeps the Latin root dexter, which means "right", it ends up conveying the idea of being "right-handed at both sides".
It gets worse. Meanings gradually developed from use of these terms in the ancient languages. In many modern European languages, including English, the word for the direction "right" also means "correct" or "proper", and also stands for authority and justice. So poor Ehud was Mr. Wrong.
Or take Samgar…his name says it all. It means literally “a stranger.” A stranger in Israel. In other words he wasn’t even a part of the family. He was an outside.
It’s the way God works. Remember our New Testament passage? Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
A common Biblical reality. God chose Jacob, a deceiver, to “father” the Israelite nation (Genesis 27-28). He chose Moses, a shepherd in exile (and murderer), to lead Israel out of bondage, to the Promised Land (Exodus 3), and Hannah, a homemaker, to be the mother of Samuel (1 Samuel 1). There was David, a shepherd boy and last-born of the family, chosen to be Israel’s greatest king (1 Samuel 16). Mary, A peasant girl, to be the mother of Christ (Luke 1:27-38), Matthew, a tax collector, to be an apostle and Gospel writer (Matthew 9:9). You get the idea.
And God choose you, and I. You are a person God wants to use to do great things. God might use your strength. I feel like God sometimes uses mine. I have the gift or reading and interpreting, and the gift of blather. God uses that sometimes to help me teach people.
But if we look at the Judges, there were, frankly, no glaring strengths. No special training. They were just, people. But they were people ready and willing to be God. And so it is that God uses the common
And God even uses our weakness. In fact I think that God often leads through our weakness. The church, when it is at its best. When it is alive, and focused on God, and “prospering” in terms of faith and energy and vitality, is a community of wounded healers.
The fact that we are wounded is without dispute. We are mess-ups and failures. We have lied and cheated and envied and hated.
But guilt is not our idol. Shame does not define us. Darkness doesn’t have the last word.
Instead redemption is our story.
And God will use/ can use ANYONE
And that is why we are also healers.
Henri’s book has a wonderful book entitled ‘The Wounded Healer’. The book draws its inspiration from an old folk story in with the Messiah is found with the wounded, sitting at the gates of the city binding his wounds. This is a core concept for Christianity. Jesus ultimately modeled this kind of ministry “By his wounds we are healed,” Isaiah wrote. Surely this verse influenced Jesus, helping him to understand that as a suffering servant he could change the world. He could respond to hatred with love, violence with goodwill, resentment with encouragement, revenge with forgiveness, injustice with justice, evil with righteousness and despair with hope. In so doing, he could inspire and empower others to end the vicious cycle of retaliation, replacing it with reconciliation.
We can do that, too. Our wounds can be the catalyst for change rather than the cause for retribution. Like our Lord and many that have followed him, we can become wounded healers, making the world safer and better. Will we be this kind of people? Will we become a wounded healers in our family, on our jobs, at our schools or in our neighborhoods? Will we turn something negative that has happened to you into something good for those around you? Will we develop a new way of responding to adversity, and weakness, and failure?
This is something that we, with god, can in fact do.
Younger brother, left handed freak, stranger – they did it
Scared, betrayed, betrayer, failure, cheater, liar, uneducated, doubtful… We can do it too
For God takes the common person
And God, in power, raises that person up, and they become ministers
There is a wonderful story about a Belgian Catholic Priest named Joseph Damien De Veuster. Father Damien was sent to minister to lepers on the Hawaiian Island of Molokia. When he arrived he immediately began to meet with each other lepers. He reached out to them in many ways. But wherever he turned he was shunned. No matter how hard he worked, not matter how he poured his life into his work, no one responded. After twelve years Father Damien made the decision to leave.
Dejectedly he made his way to the docks to board a ship to take him back to Belgium. As he stood on the dock he looked down at his hands and noticed some mysterious white spots and felt some numbness. Almost immediately he knew what was happening to his body. He had contracted leprosy. It was then that he knew what he had to do. He returned to the leper colony and to his work. Quickly the word spread through the colony. Within hours everyone knew. Hundreds of them gathered outside his hut. They understood his pain, fear, and uncertainty about the future. But the biggest surprise was the following Sunday. As Father Damien arrived at the chapel he found hundreds of worshipers there. By the time the service began the chapel was full and there were others outside. The reason? He was one of them.
Wounded healers can minister to the wounded. Common people can minister to common people
That is how God works. Because God knows that is how we work. Some of the reason I am effective, when I am, in my work, is because the people who see me at the clinic know I am an anxious soul. And they know I went from being a rising star in the church, to being a falling star. They know I have had to start over. And that I still screw up – all too often. All too profoundly
Judges. Jesus. Disciples. Us. All of us are wounded. But all of us can be healers. Because God wants us to minister to each other, and work together, not work on each other. God knows, that our woundedness and our commonness can be the bridge over which his love, and his spirit move – to bring healing to a wounded world.
Congratulations to each of you. For you have been chosen to lift someone else, our of their hurt and hopelessness, in the light and joy of God’s love