Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23; Psalm 125; Isaiah 35:4-7a
Psalm 146; James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17; Mark 7:24-37
“The sceptre of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous, lest the righteous stretch out their hands to do wrong” (Psalm 125:3, ESV)
There is no clearer statement in scripture about the pervasive power of evil. We see it in the pitiful excuses offered in the face of ancient wrongs. “Those slave traders – they lived in different times. They didn’t realise they were doing wrong.”… “Those sexual predators, corrupting children and destroying lives – of course, things were different then.” Corrupt power permeates through the whole of society, and shifts the blame from the systemic power of the abusers to the victims.
The pandemic has had devastating economic effects globally. In the UK, churches worked with others on a campaign to ‘Reset the debt’ (https://www.church-poverty.org.uk/resetthedebt/), using the Jubilee principle to help people who found themselves in unrecoverable debt, because of COVID-19. And often the first reaction of people unaffected by poverty is not compassion, but blame. Despite the overwhelming effects of the crisis, somehow, they said people had “got themselves into debt, and why should we help?”
But look at the scripture at the start of this reflection. It is clear where God’s compassion and justice lies: “Do not rob the poor… for the Lord pleads their cause” (Proverbs 22:22-3). God’s will is for the flourishing of all, and that means that it is the corruption that flows from the ‘sceptre of wickedness’, which must be blamed, judged and overthrown. In a beautiful vision of flourishing, Isaiah describes streams flowing in the desert, the wilderness inundated with life-giving water (Isaiah 35:6), when damaged lives are transformed through healing and joy.
Jesus brings that transformation. Where His touch is felt, ears are unstopped and tongues untied, and people can hear and speak to each other again. Then the sceptre of corruption, the crown and orb of greed and exploitation can be lifted from the land so that all creation may flourish. All it takes is for us to learn again to listen, and to speak, and act on the truth.
-Janet Wootton, Congregational Federation
God of compassion,
Where the sceptre of wickedness is grasped by corrupt hands – one race,
one gender, one heritage of power
Let freedom flourish again,
like springs of fresh water in the desert; Give us ears to hear earth’s many voices and the courage to speak the truth.
United Church in Papua New Guinea
Pray for the church leadership of UCPNG.
Pray for efforts in eradicating violence against women.
Pray for Papua New Guinea as the Coronavirus has begun to hit the country.
Image by United Church in Papua New Guinea (UCPNG)