Week of Epiphany 4, Year One
[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 69:1-23(24-30)31-38 (morning) // 73 (evening)
One of the most painful voices to hear is an expression of un-belonging. Our first reading today records two of these voices, and God doesn’t want to hear them. They hurt too much.
The first voice comes from a foreigner, someone living among God’s seemingly preferred tribe, and doubting their own place among God’s people. Through the prophet, God says, “Do not let the foreigner joined to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will surely separate me from his people.'” Even though this person lives and worships alongside God’s people, he believes he’ll be kicked out at any moment.
The second voice comes from a eunuch who keeps the sabbath and pleases God, but who doubts their worthiness to be among God’s family. Through the prophet, God says, “do not let the eunuch say, ‘I am just a dry tree.'” Even though this person lives within God’s covenant, they feel like a useless, fruitless person who will never have true family bonds.
God doesn’t want to hear these voices. God wants to make them belong. Of the eunuchs, God says, “I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters.” And of the foreigners, God says, “these I will bring to my holy mountain . . . for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” In sum, the people who feel least-connected, and least-welcomed, have a place in God’s own house.
Sometimes, our churches fail miserably at inviting, welcoming, and claiming as our own those who have deep doubts about their belonging. Perhaps it’s because our ethnocentrisms and gender binaries are so powerful at undermining the worthiness of others, as in the days of this prophecy. Or perhaps it’s because some of us are so deeply wounded that no human community can relieve our doubts that we are beloved and that we belong.
But it’s important for us to know that God wants more for us, and that we can do better. God wants all to believe that we belong in his house. And God leaves the door wide open for more: “Thus says the Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them besides those already gathered.” So, who’s next?
Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.