Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Advent Day 11, 2015 - ...who is my equal?...

To whom then will you compare me,
   or who is my equal? says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high and see:
   Who created these?
He who brings out their host and numbers them,
   calling them all by name;
because he is great in strength,
   mighty in power,
   not one is missing.

Why do you say, O Jacob,
   and speak, O Israel,
‘My way is hidden from the
   and my right is disregarded by my God’?
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
Lord is the everlasting God,
   the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
   his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
   and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
   and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the
Lord shall renew their strength,
   they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
   they shall walk and not faint.
  - Isaiah 40:25-31

Who is God? How big is God? How powerful is God? These are questions that I think everyone has asked themselves at one point in time or another. We want to know God but we can only use finite words to describe the infinite.

God is speaking to Isaiah and bringing to the fore these very questions. What's interesting is that God is speaking in the third person quoting what others say but in referring to God's self, it is as if God were distancing Godself from human limitations in comparison. It seems a bit odd, but then once again we are trying to understand something that is beyond our comprehension. God speaks of what God is able to do, but never uses the personal pronoun I to describe the actions.

The line that attracted my attention was the simple phrase "… [W]ho is my equal?…" (25b). We are accustomed to thinking of God is not having any equal at all, although the concept of the Trinity makes that a little more difficult. That relationship is much argued, but never really completely understood. Still, we believe that God has no equal and so to ask the question is to call attention to that fact.

We have a number of ways of thinking of people and equality. We think of people of our same status, culture, race, financial condition, education, and orientation, as our equals. One of the greatest problems that face us today is learning to expand the boundaries of our equality to include people who don't fit our concept of being "just like us." We compartmentalize people based on one or more characteristics and use that characteristic to define them in their entirety rather than as part of who they are. The most obvious has been the racial and cultural description in which people of color, ethnicity, or orientation are totally seen as just that characteristic.

We don't have the same relationship with others that the three persons of God do, and so we think of God as the supreme being. We can understand it because we can never experience it. What we do experience is living with others, both those who share some of our defining characteristics and those who don't. If that experience has convinced us that people a certain qualities or characteristics are somehow lesser beings then we ourselves, then we enter the realm of bigotry, phobia, and disregard for them as fellow human beings.

It's not a new problem; it's been going on since Adam and Eve started a family. With multitudes of individuals from around the world, speaking different languages, following different religions, clinging to their own cultural values and practices, we have to reconsider our own need for supremacy. We also need to consider our relationship to these people, where we can be helpful, and where we should give them more space and not expect them to be just like us.

In one of the teachings of Jesus, the question was asked, "Who is my neighbor?" Perhaps now we should try looking at the question as "Who is my equal?" If we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, then we have to begin to look at them as our equals and worthy of our efforts to love them and care for them. It's probably one of the hardest things to do, but it's one of the imperatives that Jesus left us with.

Today I need to ask myself, who is my equal? Who is my neighbor? How can I learn to see the two terms as having similar meanings? That's my Advent thoughts for the day, and this one I will probably need to contemplate for much longer.

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