NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

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May 11, 2013

Spine and spirit

(Continued)

Now, if the foremost mission of faith communities in this generation is in fact to “heal and straighten” the spirit, how shall this be accomplished? In revisiting Scripture, we find that Jesus did three things when He healed this bent-over woman: He “saw” her, He called her to Him and then He laid His gentle hands upon her (Luke 13:10-17).

First then, we are to “see” other people in new ways and to really “see” ourselves too, not bent but straight, trying to envision their, and our own, promise and potential beneath the obvious problems. Is it possible for us, and especially today members of Congress, to learn to “see” in that new way? Can we, and especially members of Congress, somehow unlearn the crippling cynicism and the denial-of-possibility in our day and age and begin again sincerely to “see” hope and compromise and opportunity in one another? But “seeing” the possibilities and promises in ourselves and in others is only the first step.

Secondly, there is then a need to “call out” the hidden gifts — that oft-unused but very rich potential. When Jesus called that woman to Him, that in itself didn’t heal her. But it got her moving in a direction that ultimately led toward healing. That is surely something that we in our faith communities and our peers in Congress looking across the aisle, can do — “call out” the gifts that may be submerged or latent, in order to help each other to begin moving somewhere. So how can we best be “calling out” those hidden gifts in one another?

And then in Scripture we see the third thing Jesus was able to do. First He “saw” her, then He called her to Him, and then He said to her, “Woman, you are rid of your infirmity.” And then He laid His hands upon her. “And at once she straightened up and glorified God!” Now what did this laying-on of hands involve? Was Christ’s touch gentle and soothing, or was there perhaps a firmness and a pressure connected with it? Scripture doesn’t really say, but I suspect His grip was gentle AND firm, that there was an immediate, gentle and yet unmistakably insistent pressure — almost a “pulling toward straightness.” I believe we in our faith communities, and those folks in Congress right now especially, are called to offer that loving, compassionate, gentle but firm, “straightening touch” to one another — as well as to others in the wider community — not simply to offer comforting pats and warm fuzzy strokes, but to “pull one another” to a greater height. In that sense then, we also need critics of a sort as well as lovers. We need people who not only “call out” our gifts, but also “call us to account” whenever we misuse or squander them.

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