OH, GOD, IT WAS YOU WHO BROUGHT US OUT of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You are my source and my liberator. I need your law because being true to you is illusive and hard, a daily commitment, and a path I so easily reframe in my own image rather than yours.
You call me to honor you as the one, true God, but we humans seem to drift away from you toward so many other gods. We orient our lives toward enhancing our own status among others, toward accumulating all that we think we are entitled to, toward our own happiness too often at the expense of others, tward our own definitions of success. But bigger cars and full-up retirement accounts and lovely attire and the most favorable address will not bring me out of the house of slavery. In fact, these things may be the very things that do enslave me, that hide me from others who suffer so I might spend more. I am enslaved to a false image of the whole of your creation.
Or, my god may be my clarity about the rules you have offered for ordering our lives. Like the Pharisees of old, I may want it simple and clear, no nuance or complexity allowed when I am living as a “good” Christian. I can project my zealousness on others, too, and in doing so, enslave myself to a faulty belief about your mercy, that it is only earned by copious perfection. My idolatry can blind me to my own faults as I scan the failure of others, my hypocrisy and selective application evident to everyone but me.
Or it can cause me to fixate on my own errors and miss the wonder of your forgiving and creating power at work. It is no better to undervalue the beauty of my own self, created in your image, than it is to undervalue the beauty of another. If worthiness is only about perfection, or what our world defines as perfection, then how can anyone measure up?
This is the gift of your gaze, honoring instead all the idiosyncrasies and faults that make each of us who we are. Not that anything goes, I know. Your love invites us to a world where all deserve dignity, where there is enough for everyone, where our lives are sustained generation to generation, called from despair by your mercy, and called to do better by your justice. You will walk with us as we unravel the damage prior generations have left with us, just as someday, you will accompany our children and our children’s children as they heal from our shortsightedness. This is a mystery, God, that you love us into better health, even when it pains us, even when we are impatient.
Free us from idolizing work. Teach us to rest, and in resting, to see fully your grace and generosity among and around us. You have created us for this, to work and to rest. May we honor your wisdom by keeping Sabbath. Open our eyes to the ways we enslave ourselves and the ways we enslave others. You are our liberator. Show us your better way. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
The Rev. Catherine Malotky is an ELCA pastor, retired from full-time paid work for the sake of dear relationships and interests.
This article appears in the January/February 2023 issue. To read more articles like it, subscribe to Gather.
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I am disappointed and upset about the INAPPROBRIATED INSERTS that Christa Von Zychlin made in the latest Bible Study for February, 2023. As a pastor she should know better to attack other religions because she has a beef with the Catholic religion. Pastors are usually called on this because pastors and priest are not supposed to JUDGE other religions as she has done on pages 22,24,28, and 40. I have never heard a priest openly judge another Christian religion.
Who is she to judge and then write it in a study. No wonder Lutherans are sometimes also attacking catholics for their beliefs and their way of life. I believe this woman should find another profession. She is causing harm to Lutheran friendship with catholics. Luckily, my Lutheran friends are very respectful to me, as a catholic in our bible study and prayer shawl ministry. Shame om Ms. Zychlin.
Thanks for writing! I’m so glad you are participating in an interdenominational Gather Bible study and thanks for commenting with your concerns, since I may have been unclear, and there are undoubtedly others who may hear something I by no means intended. I’m sorry about that!
I have a deep reverence for the Roman Catholic Church. We Lutherans and Protestants have much to learn from the Roman Catholic Church, and I often refer to it as our “Mother Church”. I firmly believe we worship and serve the same gracious Lord, and it’s wonderful to study the Bible together, with our differing insights and points of view.
As to the specific references you mention – On page 22 right at the beginning of Session I of the Spring 2023 Gather Bible Study, my comment was in reference to my old understanding of both Judaism and Catholicism, that they were full of “rules and legalisms” and my experience as a young woman in Jerusalem caused me to see I was wrong, and to discover that in fact, a reverence for God’s “laws and teachings” and the related traditions of Judaism and the Catholic Church have much deep, biblical, loving wisdom to them.
The only other reference to Roman Catholicism that I see is on page 40 (Session II) where I mention that Roman Catholic tradition doesn’t include the Mark 3 encounter between Mother Mary and her Son, Jesus, in the traditional list of the “Seven Sorrows of Mary.” I find the Roman Catholic tradition of “the Sorrows of Mary,” meaningful and have talked about it and taught it a number of times – another aspect of the deep treasures of Roman Catholic faith & practice. It’s a fact that I’ve personally puzzled over, why this startling response of Jesus to his mother and brothers in Mark 3 isn’t included among the traditional list of “sorrows”. I wonder how Mary may have experienced Jesus’ teaching about the importance of the family of faith over that of his own flesh and blood mother and siblings. As a mother myself, I personally think she suffered from that interaction, much as I’m also sure she accepted it and grew from it.
God’s blessings and grace to you and your Study Group!
Where is the gather magazine? Still have not received the March/ April issue.
Come on! Find someone who can get it our on time.