Have you ever had a change of heart? A complete turn from one standpoint to another? Eg. Someone you began disliking turned out to be someone you came to trust, love and even marry! Or thinking you'd never like a certain food, vacation spot, activity, or art form, but somehow you came to appreciate, seek out and even sacrifice for obtaining this thing? That is called Metanoia in theology.
Those are "Turns" .....from something, to something.
Have you ever experienced total change in your way of understanding how things work, or what is expected and acceptable in life, at work, in your family, in your most intimate relationship?
Eg. From Monday as laundry day and Tuesday as ironing day to any day, any time laundry and who even irons any more, anyway? From typewriters and telegrams to computers and the internet; From party lines to Skype; From hunting a mastodon to picking up steaks at Sausage Plus? From children are to be seen not heard, to parental lives scheduled around car pooling and extra curricular schedules? From slavery to emancipation; from segregation to integration; from patriarchy to equality;?
Those are "paradigm shifts." They aren't just turns from something to something. Paradigm shifts are like to tectonic plates of the earth shifting but they are in our mindsets, our world view, our social order.
That's what we hear in every scripture voice today.....examples of significant "Turns" from something to something......which, over time lead to huge paradigm shifts in the Christian understanding of who God's people are, of God's own characteristics, and of God's inclusive kindom.
OT Isaiah 66:18-21
The Turn...from ethnocentrism to inclusiveness.
The paradigm shift :The reign of God will bring a startling, surprising reversal or the world order.
"God comes to gather nations of every language who will come and see God's glory and they will receive a sign from God and then be sent to all the nations to proclaim God's glory to those nations, and then they will bring all your brothers and sisters, your kin, from all the nations as an offering to God. And some of these God will take as priests and Levites, says the Lord"
Can you hear the Israelites saying, "What? Pagens? Warriors on horses and in chariots? Women and children in carts? The poor on mules? Wealthy merchants on dromedaries/camels?
How can this be? WE are the chosen people!
How can God call those who are so different from us? How could it be that God will take unbelievers, our enemies, people who we dislike and bring them to Jerusalem, to God's own holy mountain?
That is OUR Jerusalem mountain!"
Imagine! God might just be calling some to be priests from those not part of the "in" crowd.
The Turn : from a NT writer who relies on an OT understanding of God as a God who punishes, expects obedience and creates fear to instill respect.
a NT God who instructs us that we have a choice to say "yes" to God's invitation to Grace; a NT God who loves unconditionally to create respect.
The Paradigm Shift - From, "Suck it up! Jesus had it way worse than you do. Whatever is happening to you, is because God, like a punishing puppeteer in the sky, is pulling strings in our lives, heaping sorrows, loss, betrayal, disappointment, illness, death on us as a way of disciplining us to make us stronger."
a God who teaches, who instructs us in how to live and to love, sort of like a Life Coach.
The writer to the Hebrew community got the conclusion right, but the reasoning to get there was wrong. The reasoning is culturally conditioned and reflects the Ancient Middle East parenting practices more than the mind of God.
It is true that what we experience as difficult does make us stronger and does bear fruit, especially empathy and compassion, and does foster a commitment to justice, if we have been loved and taught well by a caring parents or caretakers. But if those parents or caretakers aren't caring, I am not so sure those are the outcomes.
Describing a hurtful and punitive God as a justification for suffering, is just putting God into a pretty negative box.
The word, in Greek, that is in the scriptures is paideia, and it doesn't mean punishment at all. It means instruction.
In the culture from which this scripture emerged, "discipline" evokes a certain kind of parental behaviors : rough, tough, no-nonsense, no discussion, "because I said so" sorts of parenting. Some of us remember that. It may have resulted in obedience and fear, but often not much in the way of feeling valued or loved.
In a bad theology of the golden, olden days of the OT, people believed that when bad things unjustly happened to people, it was because God was punishing them, or toughening them up for their own good. God used punishing and harshness, like parents of olden days would do to their children, children who were essentially their property. This is a good example of people making God in their image rather than understanding themselves as made in God's image. Even in the OT, God continued to be faithful to the people even though they did a lot of stupid things. Back then they assumed punishment would have a good end, making the person who suffered it experience peace and justice in their later years.
I'd like to see the research on that. Does experiencing discipline as harsh punishment when we have done nothing to deserve it, as was the case with the Hebrews who were facing persecution by the local community, leave people full of peace and lead them to justice? More often it created obedience rooted in fear, if not terror.
Today the brutal punishments of those golden, olden days will land someone in jail. Thanks be to God! ( .......Or at least they should be!)
This passage has served, unfortunately, for millennia, as a justification for abuses by those with power over those without power. Hmmmm. That sounds like those who are first and those who are last. A perfect seque into the Gospel Turn and paradigm shift.
Luke 13: 22-30
The Turn - from the First being first and the last being last
The last being first and the first being last.
Well that's a tough turn to swallow! The big guys are coming down. The lowly are being uplifted. Didn't Mary say something like that when she found out she was expecting? Who are the last? Everyone found unacceptable to the leaders of the faith community: women, children, slaves, the "other," who came from somewhere else, who spoke a different language, who looked different, or thought different.
The Paradigm shift : from a smug assumption that only the "chosen" will be at the feast in the kindom of God to the shattering, stunning, revelation that all people will be saved if the struggle to come in through the "narrow door", that is, if they strive to live the difficult, divisive, threatening Gospel message of love, of inclusiveness, of accepting God's call to each of us to go out and proclaim God's glory to the north and south, the east and west.
That's an even tougher paradigm shift to embrace.
As we now approach the Eucharist, the feast of God's kindom come on earth, may each of us now turn from the ways we lock God in a Box, turn from our own ways of excluding and judging others as unworthy, turn from our own ways of putting ourselves first,
embrace the revolutionary paradigm shift where we are struggling and strive, so imperfectly, to live the "narrow door" of loving inclusiveness.