I have been quite critical of my religious upbringing in other talks, and all of that is quite true. Of utmost significance to me was that, rather than having access to quality mental health and medical care, I had to rely on religious books and ideas to help me cope with and try to recover from the abuse I experienced as a child. So I want to be clear that I am not erasing any of those criticisms when I say that it is also true that I don’t know if I would have survived adolescence without the powerful vision of peace and justice that I found in the lives and teachings of Jesus and the prophets.
I was probably around 12 years old when I first began reading and studying the Hebrew Bible and the Christian scriptures. I encountered plenty of confusing stuff, but there was also this persistent, insistent plea for us to make things right, to create a world where we could live without exploitation, injustice, or oppression. And it felt realistic to me; these values were often aspirations, a vision of how things could be. Only false prophets lied and said everything was okay when it wasn’t okay. I appreciated that honesty, because the world I grew up in was certainly not safe, just, or particularly kind – but I wanted it to be, and these readings helped me hold on to the vision that this was possible. One of these passages that happens to be the lectionary text for this Sunday, when Jesus goes to a synagogue in Nazareth and reads from a scroll from the prophet Isaiah: