Friday, July 28, 2017

Truth-seers

I've been on a campaign lately to update and modify the signage at Ascension. As a relative newcomer, I need to pay attention to details my eyes won't be noticing as the years pass. The more times I walk by the directory sign inside the Yarmouth Rd. entrance, the more likely I won't notice that where it once read "DIRECTORY", it now says "DIRECTO." The RY are missing and I don't know how long it's been that way. But I do suspect that it doesn't seem to bother anyone else the way it bothers me. 

Last week, as I was obsessing over all the signage that needs work inside our building, I exited the main doors and noticed a "No Parking" sign I had never seen before. There is was, right in front of me in all its glory! (The streaks you see are rust.)



Argh! I've been at Ascension for a year and was seeing it for the first time. I snapped a picture and shared it with a few people in the office. "Have you ever seen this sign before?" I asked. Not a one of them had ever laid eyes on it, and yet every time we leave the building, it's right there in our church circle-driveway. There's no way you could miss it. But, of course, everyone has. 

Now, I'm not pointing this out to disparage our property manager or property committee. They are amazing and keep the church in top-top shape. My point is how we can become blind to stuff that's right in front of us after it becomes so commonplace that we don't even notice it.

What's true for signage around the church is true for so much more. The longer we're a part of an organization, a system, a culture, the less we question how it works. That's why we need truth-seers.

This is what prophets did for God's people in the Scriptures. When the people fell away from God's ways and were swept up in the ways of the world, the prophets gave them a verbal smack upside the head, calling them to see the truth. God still sends us prophets today. If we're wise enough to listen to them, they will challenge us to become more than we are.

Lately, I've become especially sensitive to the word we use to describe the way we worship in the church as "traditional." I've used it for years to describe liturgical worship that follows the book, with "traditional" hymns, and "traditional" organ music. But truth-seers have challenged me to question the use of that word. How can I say that the way we worship in my white, middle-class, English-speaking, North American Lutheran congregation is "traditional?" That may be my tradition, but it is not the tradition for most of the Lutherans who are worshiping God on any given Sunday morning. Truth-seers have helped me to expand my vision in a way that includes those I hadn't considered when I bought into a certain standard for what is traditional Lutheran worship.

Truth-seers are usually outsiders. They're people who aren't a part of the dominant group. After all, when the system is working for you, you have no need to question it. This may seem relatively harmless when we're talking about local customs and preferences, but it quickly becomes dangerous when we're making assumptions about who's in and who's out. Then, in our blindness, we're failing to see injustice. It becomes so much a part of our lives that we don't even realize it exists. I've only been able to see this with the help of the truth-seers God has placed in my life.

Without the voices of truth-seers, I shudder to think of how much worse things might be than they are. Whenever I want to hide my head in the sand and ignore injustice in the world around me, I thank God for the annoying truth-seers who regularly challenge my false assumptions, expose my blind spots, and confront me with the reality of a faded, rusty sign that's just gotta go.


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