One of the things about reading the Bible in large chunks is that it is easier to see how the pieces fit together. When reading just one story or a few verses at a time, it is easy to miss what seems to come up consistently. In the last few days as I have read John 4-6 (yesterday) and 7-9 (this morning), one thread that has been there (of many others) has been water and bread/manna. In just the last few chapters, there’s been a miraculous feeding, the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus walking on the water, people looking for Jesus presumably for food, manna in the wilderness, a foreshadowing of the Last Supper, and Jesus teaching that if anyone is thirsty to come to him for from within (Jesus) will flow rivers of living water.
Last night, I read the news that Dr. James Cone died yesterday. I first encountered his wisdom and power when I was in seminary when I was challenged with a theology of liberation for the first time. Prior to seminary, I had never heard of the concept and it rocked my world. To look at the world and faith from the viewpoint of the oppressed was not something I had been challenged to do before (even as I had been raised in the church my whole life). It was not a simple overnight change, but one that the Spirit has been working in me since that day and continuing today as well (I’m far from done yet).
In late 2016, a friend and I attended a lecture by Dr. Cone at Xavier University and he was so powerful as he shared of his book, “The Cross and the Lynching Tree,” as he pushed each person there to dramatically reconsider how we live and how we act and to remember the ways that the cross has been used for liberation and for oppression by the church and society as a whole. He reminded us of how we are called to intentionally and consistently attempt to view the world through the eyes and experiences of others and not solely our own, especially through the voiceless and oppressed in society whose voices are often unheard or ignored.
The picture today speaks to me of the oft-qouted passage from Amos 5:24 that concludes a message from God throgh Amos about how the Lord doesn’t desire the festivals and trappings of faith but instead justice and righteousness to flow down. Those were words that Dr. Cone reminded us of time and time again. And as he has gone into glory, may his words continue to echo in me and in all of us.
“Indeed our survival and liberation depend upon our recognition of the truth when it is spoken and lived by the people. If we cannot recognize the truth, then it cannot liberate us from untruth. To know the truth is to appropriate it, for it is not mainly reflection and theory. Truth is divine action entering our lives and creating the human action of liberation.” – James Cone