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Wake-up call Isaiah 8.16-9.1 Luke 2239-53 [Why do you consult] mediums and spiritists, who chirp and mutter? To the law and the testimony! Isaiah 8.l9a, 20a (author’s translation) In the pedagogy of the desert, God had stripped the Israelites of the practices of Egypt and imprinted upon them the law of life, the way of blessing. The practices of Egypt and the surrounding nations had at their centre mediums, spiritists, magic, idol worship. We need to dear away the underbrush of our time to see that to them these practices were not bizarre but entirely rational and logical. They made perfect, logical sense, for they gave access to the forces of nature, which were the source of their economic prosperity. And Egypt was the wealthiest, most successful nation of its day! On the surface, that is. For how ironic it is that in today’s passage Isaiah is shown that such practices bring different results: no light of dawn, God withdrawn from the land, hunger, and people thrust into thick darkness! Turn to the law and the testimony instead, says Isaiah! It is a tragic deception of our time that rationality has come to mean the opposite of magic and idol worship. For are they not two sides of the same coin as much today as in the ancient world? Our economy is a purely rational structure, yet without a mysterious “invisible hand” working frenetically at its very centre it could not operate. Against a rising mountain of evidence, our society still stubbornly holds to the belief that an invisible hand will somehow ensure not only that the poor will participate in the rising wealth but also that natural resources will never run out and that employment will keep increasing. As U.S. vice-president Al Gore writes, “It is almost as if the ultra rational “economic man’ of classical theory actually believes in magic.” Others speak of the technological “sleepwalk” of our time. They argue that today’s stunning new technologies-crowning achievements of reason, rationality, logic—could not exist without a mesmerizing sleep condition, by which we accept without question the rapid pace of technological change. They also argue that this sleep is central to how we experience a very familiar piece of electronic technology: television. Thousands of flickering cathode rays assault our vision in frenetic, rapid-fire succession, 32 frames per second, every day. With incantations of light, the chirping and muttering is hypnotic in effect; we are entranced, drugged. Perhaps our sleep is like that of the disciples in Luke 22, who slept through possibly the most momentous point of history. Inattention is the opposite of love. But Jesus issues a jolting wake-up call: precisely in the hour when darkness reigns (v.53), Jesus heals his enemy (v.51), the very one who has come to thrust him into thick darkness. It is crucial for us to see that this act is not an aberration but lies at the heart of the meaning of our faith today. Today , what healing steps might we take out of our induced magic sleep and the sleep of our time? From “The Advent of Justice” by Walsh, Middleton, Vennen, Keesmaat, 1993. (p41)


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