Seeing Anewby Rev. Dr. Amy Chilton on 09/21/23
The past few days in Cranston have been perfect weatherwise. So, needing to clear my head this morning and needing to help the dog work out some wiggles, we walked to the church building. The air was slightly crisp, the trees are still green, and the sky was a brilliant blue. I appreciated the change of perspective I had on same route I take most days. I could see flowers up close that I can’t while driving - including a hefty milkweed that is growing out of a sidewalk crack. Daisy, meanwhile, got to smell all the things.
Think about the things you have done that have given you a new perspective on an old sight. Being out on the water makes the shore look a whole lot different than being on the beach. Boating from Providence to Newport seems much more direct than driving between the two. Seeing your city from an airplane makes it look a bit different than seeing it from your car or house windows. Perhaps the new view makes things look smaller or even makes things look closer together than when you experience them “on the ground.” The time and effort it takes to knit a sweater might give you a new perspective on the justice problems of fast fashion and worker’s rights.
In Ezekial God promised the exiled Israelites to give them a new perspective when they return home from exile. God had promised they were going to come home - but the cherry on top was that they would see and understand things in a new way!
“For I will bring you back from the nations, and gather you from every land, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle pure water over you, and you will be purified from everything that defiles you. I will purify you from the taint of all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:24-26, The Inclusive Bible).
What is fascinating about this text is that it is set in the middle of a lengthy discussion on how their perspective on God and the world had to change and how their time in exile was going to be when that happened. New perspectives can be hard hard won - in this case, while God is promising a new perspective on faithfulness, God is also telling them this new perspective is going to come about through some rather challenging life experiences.
Israel didn’t exactly choose to be colonized and trafficked into exile - but by the grace of God good was able to come from even that. By God’s same grace, good and new perspectives are able to come from difficult life realities we also did not nor would not have chosen. God’s love can be victorious over pain, trauma, and hate - and one of the ways it can win is by us learning anew how to love and be faithful despite our life circumstances. If we can emerge from pain with love instead of hate, God’s grace has won. If we can emerge from being the victims of injustice with compassion and advocacy for other victims, God’s grace has won.
But, new perspectives can also come about through changes we choose - such as choosing to walk instead of drive, or choosing to start a new spiritual practice or hobby. While I would never encourage you to have difficult life situations in order to learn something new, I do pray that you might try something new and be present in those moments to how you might see God and the world differently. Perhaps you might start a daily journaling or prayer practice, perhaps you might read a new genre or book of the Bible you aren’t familiar with, or perhaps you might find a new way to befriend your neighbors. These purposeful ways of seeking new perspectives on God’s presence in this world might just open you to God’s grace in new ways.
So, this week as you go about your days, be open to God finding you in new ways, because God’s love is always ready to spring forth anew.