Using sacred imagination to inhabit multiple viewpoints, and to experience healing at the hands of an enemy. (Listen.)
Today, we are going to use our sacred imaginations in a guided meditation. To make the most of this, set aside some time, and allow plenty of space between the questions to wonder and to notice what emerges in you. When you are ready, relax your body; uncross your legs; uncomplicate your heart. Ask God to help you surrender to whatever it is that God wants to do in you or say to you today. Breathe slowly and deeply in, then out. When you are ready, with sacred breath, push open the door.
You find yourself in a crowded room. Look first to the One who gazes at you with infinite warmth and affection and welcome. Breathe.
Now look around: there’s Jesus with seventy of his disciples, and many other people, too. The seventy have just returned from a tour where they have been welcomed into the homes of many strangers; they have healed the sick and cast out demons. Now, they’ve returned to be with Jesus. They’re reporting back all that they have seen and done, and he’s rejoicing with them, and blessing them.
- As you gaze at the scene before you, what is the mood of the room? What about in you? How do you feel as you hear about all that has been happening? What do you see on Jesus’ face as he rejoices with the seventy?
Now imagine a man standing up and clearing his throat. The room falls silent. ‘Teacher,’ he says to Jesus, ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’
- Can you sense what is happening in his heart as he stands?
- How do you feel as you hear the question? Does it shock you? Does it resonate with you? How does the question land in the group?
There is a silence. Then Jesus asks a question back. ‘What is written in the law?’ he says. ‘What do you read there?’
- As he speaks, what do you see in Jesus’ face? What do you hear in his tone? Is he amused, annoyed, compassionate, curious? What do you notice?
The man answers Jesus. He speaks of loving God and loving neighbour. Jesus commends him, and says, ‘Do this, and you will live.’ But the man takes it further. He asks, ‘And who is my neighbour?’
- What do you feel when you hear this question? Curious? Compassionate? Exasperated? What else? What do you sense is going on for the questioner? What does Jesus feel?
‘Who is my neighbour?’ Jesus responds to the question with a story. He speaks of a traveller who is held up on the road, and stripped, and beaten, and left for dead. He speaks of two religious professionals who walk by. They can’t tell if the body is dead or alive. Under religious law, if they touch a corpse they are contaminated, and they can’t perform their duties for seven days. Perhaps this is why they twitch their skirts and avoid the traveller and leave him lying, alone, in the gutter.
- Pause for a moment, and place yourself in the mind of one of the religious professionals. What emotions do you feel? What priorities do you have? What voices and duties and values are competing for precedence?
- Now place yourself in the body of the injured man. What do you notice from this vantage point? What do you feel? What do you need and hope for?
Jesus continues with his story. He introduces a new character: a deeply hated other, the sort of person you disagree with on everything that matters. He’s the heretic, the outcast, the source of fear, the object of loathing. He’s the sense of persecution, the overbearing horror; or he’s the butt of jokes, the whipping boy, the scapegoat. He’s everything that’s wrong with the world, everything we’re united against, a sinner from a people who are beyond redemption. And he’s walking along the road, towards you.
- Who are you hoping does *not* come towards you? What is the block? What needs to be addressed? Can you name the resistance, hold it gently, then set it aside to heal? Can you accept that person’s loving service?
Now hold this person in your mind’s eye, for it is this one, says Jesus, this despised person who sees you, and whose guts wrench with compassion. It is this one who tends your wounds, and lifts your body, and gently carries you to safety; it is this one who pays the medical bills and ensures your ongoing care.
- In your imagination, allow the despised other to reach down towards you. Allow them to touch your wounds gently, to massage you with healing ointment. Feel your tension ease. Allow them to wrap their arms around you and raise you up, holding you close to keep you steady. As they exert themselves to bear your weight, you can hear them breathing deeply. Perhaps you notice something new about them; perhaps they are speaking to you. What do you notice? What words do you hear them speak?
- How do you feel about this person now? Is there some spark of tenderness, some new possibility, emerging? Or does your resistance continue?
- Speak with Jesus in your heart. Tell him how you feel about being served by this person. Speak to him as a trusted friend, an equal: then fall silent. Notice any word, phrase or image which bubbles up. What might it be saying to you?
Jesus speaks again. He asks, ‘Who was a neighbour?’
He says, ‘Go now, and do likewise.’
- As you hear these words, is there someone who comes to mind to whom you feel drawn? Someone whose wounds need attention, who could use some tenderness, who requires direct and practical care, even financial assistance? Pray about this, and ask God to show you the next step. If appropriate, commit to God to taking this step in the next few days.
‘Go now, and do likewise.’ As our time draws to a close and we prepare to leave this space, take a breath and savour God’s loving presence; and let us pray:
Thank you, God, for coming to us
as neighbour, teacher, stranger, even enemy.
Thank you for the many ways
you bind our wounds and carry us to safety.
Help us to love you with all our heart and soul and strength and mind,
that we might show only compassion and tenderness
to those who would consider us their enemy.
In the name of Christ we pray: Amen. Ω
A reflection by Alison Sampson on Luke 10:25-37 (Proper 10 Year C) given to Sanctuary on 10 July 2022 © Sanctuary 2022. Image shows a detail from The Good Samaritan by Delacroix (1849). Sanctuary is based on Peek Wurrung country. Find our acknowledgement of country here.
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