Human Difference, Redemption, and Grace

This is the seventh entry in the UCCDM Lenten Devotional 2016 series. This devotional reflection comes from Rev. Jeanne Tyler. Her bio can be found on the Board of Directors page.  This devotional reflects the views of the author and not the views of UCCDM.

“Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters,  who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.” (Isaiah 43: 16 – 23)

The fifth Sunday of Lent is known as Little Resurrection Sunday. It is a Sunday of Biblical texts that point toward hope of redemption already rather than emphasize judgment and repentance.  The Older Testament text from Isaiah begins at verse 16 of Chapter 43 and concludes with verse 21.  It begins with the crossing of the Red Sea by the chariots and their drivers who get stuck in the mud and cannot rise.  It is the slaves who make it across the Red Sea. “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old, Behold I am doing a new thing.”  Slaves made it to freedom.  It was a new day for a people who thought God had forgotten them.

In our world today, we too experience wilderness in our lives.  God is also there making rivers flow and waters bubble in the desert.  Is this just poetry or visions or dreams or deep yearnings among people who live in the wilderness or close enough to deserts to lack easy access to water?  To give people water is to give people life. Already we are redeemed.

Vulnerability is at the heart of the human wilderness experience.  Sometimes I feel invisible, forgotten, and forsaken.  I read theology.  I hardly ever find reference to persons with disability unless it is to speak of vulnerability.  Yes, I am vulnerable but I also have agency and that agency is as significant to my identity as vulnerability.  Why does this not point to God?  Why does this not reveal God in the fullness of God as being vulnerable as well as having agency?

I am embodied.  I see other bodies.  I see racial differences, gender differences, and gender identity differences.  I also see physical differences and some cognitive differences.  It is hard to perceive brain disorders.  It is hard to see hearing loss and diabetes.  I see all the ways we are different.  And, I believe all the ways we are alike. Created in the Image of God for the sake of one another our common humanity is at the core of wholeness and holiness.  Each of us is vulnerable and each of us exercises agency.  Already we are redeemed.

The wilderness is a place where humans feel threatened by lack of safety and scarcity of water.  And yet the wilderness is also the place of God’s presence and activity.  The wilderness becomes a place already redeemed.  With God’s presence in the wilderness we will experience water for survival and roads for direction.  This is God’s grace.  And for this we give praise to God.  The response to grace is gratitude.  I am grateful for both the vulnerabilities I face on a daily basis but also the acts of agency I exercise.  I am grateful to God for being present in the wilderness I experience.  Someone wise once said, “Prayer begins with ‘Help me, help me, Help me!’ and concludes with Thank you, thank you, Thank You!!!’”.

Prayer: O God of the Universe, you know I hate the times I spend in the wilderness.  They can be awful.  And yet, surprisingly I experience water and directions.  I sing.  Amen!