Put Out

Friday, September 19, 2014 — Week of Proper 19, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

Psalms 69:1-23(24-30)31-38 (morning) // 73 (evening)

Esther 1:1-4, 10-19

Acts 17:1-15

John 12:36b-43

Today’s gospel passage reminds us of the invisible but heavy burden that many people carry: Words we are too afraid to say. Just last week, I heard a politician being interviewed on the radio, and he used all manner of wordsmithing to avoid articulating any clear stance on an issue. He seemed afraid that any verbal commitment would cost him his leadership position. He was too afraid to say what he believed . . . assuming he believes something, that is!

The religious authorities in the time of John’s gospel have similar fears. According to this passage, there are “many, even of the authorities,” who believe that Jesus is truly God with us. We know that prominent people like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea kept their faith secret, interacting with Jesus only under cover of darkness. Perhaps there were others like them who were too afraid to be discovered, and whose names are therefore lost to the Scriptural record.

The gospel explains that authorities like these did not confess their faith “for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue.” The fear of being “put out,” shunned, ostracized, or excluded is extremely powerful . . . more powerful than these authority-figures themselves. The fear of being put out is what keeps them in line.

What things do we leave unsaid for fear that we will be put out from our communities? What words might the people around us be carrying, for fear that they could be excluded if they spoke from their hearts?

It is no trivial thing to be put out of one’s family, faith community, hometown, peer group, professional association, or political party. But the fear of being put out is one device that keeps God’s glory from being revealed in our midst. Today we can pray to loosen the grip of that fear, knowing that nothing can put us out from God’s love.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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