It’s been said that Jesus came to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. I’ve heard speakers decry this statement, arguing that it is too negative and too confrontational to be helpful to us in our faith, but that is why I like it. Everything about Jesus should make the world uncomfortable—nothing he was or did was expected or commonplace. He calls everything into question.
As Karen noted today, Jesus turns things upside-down. His words and deeds force us to look at things in new ways, to re-examine, re-evaluate, and then relearn everything we have previously known or thought we knew. Considering our faith and our discipleship as enrollment in the School of Jesus is a very compelling image, and one I enjoyed Rev. Dimock mentioning today. In our discipleship, we are called to be open to learning, always. But to see things in new ways requires a willingness to re-educate ourselves—Jesus delivers the lesson, but it is up to us to be open to receive it.
In the Parable of the Shrewd Manager, we find a lesson both confounding and disturbing. We are disrupted in the comfort of our surety of our own righteousness when Jesus equates us, the faithful, with a swindler. We don’t want to see ourselves this way; surely we are flawed, but we can’t be that bad. Jesus convicts us, while in His abounding love assuring us that it is never too late to make amends. We can always try to do better.
This past week, there has been a lot of focus in the news on misdeeds by politicians. Much of the conversation has centered on whether such deeds, and their privileged doers, can ever be redeemable. Too often, discussion has been waylaid by debate over whether past deeds can be examined through today’s lens, suggesting that the offensive, racist and homophobic actions of the past were, somehow, not offensive when they were committed. When the conversation takes such a turn, the voices of the privileged and comfortable ring loudly and defensively, rather than being silent in such moments and listening to those who are affected.
When the afflicted say, “This harms me,” it falls to the comfortable to listen. It falls to the comfortable to be disrupted. And it falls to the comfortable to be afflicted, and as God’s peacemakers to set aside our comfort for the benefit of the afflicted, to “bring release of the captive”.
As Karen said today, we are being “called to account for how wealth is used”. Our wealth is our money, yes, but it is also so much more. It is our voice, our hands and feet, our privilege, our power. We who have much, we have the most to lose, are called to account for our wealth, to justify how we are employing it. Are we comforting ourselves, or the afflicted? Are we willing to re-educate ourselves, examining our own thoughts and deeds, and to convict and afflict ourselves? School is, indeed, in session: what lesson are we willing to receive?