February 3: God Sightings: Rejected. Bullied.

Posted on : Jan 31st, 2013 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

There’s one emotion that certainly each of us has felt:  Rejection.

For gay men and lesbians, rejection used to be our greatest fear.  Why?  I decided to take a quick look at what Wikipedia has to say on the subject and found some interesting insights:

Social rejection occurs when an individual is deliberately excluded from a social relationship or social interaction. The topic includes both interpersonal rejection (or peer rejection) and romantic rejection. A person can be rejected on an individual basis or by an entire group of people. Furthermore, rejection can be either active, by bullying, teasing, or ridiculing, or passive, by ignoring a person, or giving the “silent treatment.” The experience of being rejected is subjective for the recipient, and it can be perceived when it is not actually present. The word ostracism is often used for the process (in Ancient Greece ostracism was voting [someone] into temporary exile).

Although humans are social beings, some level of rejection is an inevitable part of life. Nevertheless, rejection can become a problem when it is prolonged or consistent, when the relationship is important, or when the individual is highly sensitive to rejection. Rejection by an entire group of people can have especially negative effects, particularly when it results in social isolation.

The experience of rejection can lead to a number of adverse psychological consequences such as loneliness, low self-esteem, aggression, and depression. It can also lead to feelings of insecurity and a heightened sensitivity to future rejection.

Need for acceptance

Rejection may be emotionally painful because of the social nature of human beings and the need of social interaction between other humans is essential. Abraham Maslow and other theorists have suggested that the need for love and belongingness is a fundamental human motivation. According to Maslow, all humans, even introverts, need to be able to give and receive affection to be psychologically healthy.

Spiritual or Religious Rejection is even more painful and psychologically damaging than social rejection.   Religious rejection is often a form of spiritual abuse.  It’s rooted in bullying.  To tell someone that they are not accepted or not loved by God for whatever reason is vindictive and spiritually destructive.  It’s also a bold biblical lie.  It’s interesting to note that in the bible the ones who are most often bullied are the ones who love God and who God loves the most.

Isaiah 53 is a portion of the Bible often called “the Suffering Servant” story.  It’s about the community of faith in one of the lowest points in their lives.  They’ve been beaten up (literally) and forced into exile.  Their homeland was taken from them and they were brutally oppressed by the Babylonians.  The Babylonians were ruthless and the Hebrew people were so beat-up they were sure God had rejected them.  But not so.  In fact, this story from Isaiah would be used 500 years later to describe Jesus as “God’s Suffering Servant.”   Handel in his famous oratorio, Messiah, tied together this theme of Jesus as the Suffering Servant forever:  “Surely he has borne our grief and carried our sorrows.”

Jesus was no stranger to rejection either.  This Sunday we’re going to hear the story of Jesus coming to his home congregation to teach.  As we say in the trade, “It’s one of those sermons that wasn’t received quite the way it was intended!”  Jesus’ own friends and townspeople rejected him with a vengeance and sought to throw him out of town, head first, downhill.  Not a pretty sight!  In the language of “The Bachelor,” Jesus didn’t get a rose!  Rejection!

But God didn’t abandon Jesus, either.  In fact, it is quite obvious that God loved Jesus through Jesus’ own experience of rejection; and in the end Jesus came out stronger and more sure of himself!

Ironically, it can be that in our most painful experiences of rejection and bullying, we do not sense the absence of God, but rather the overwhelming loving presence of God.  We do not feel rejected, but accepted.  We do not feel abandoned but embraced.  It’s in those moments when we see God in our lives.  When we feel God’s love.  And then things begin to change.

More on Sunday.



~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Isaiah 53: 1-9

The prophet Isaiah speaks about the community’s past as a “suffering servant.”

Note:  this poem is written to the community of faith that we call “Israel.”  While a community is a collective of many people, the author wrote of “the suffering servant” in the singular – that is, as if the many are one. Thus, many Christians have used this text as a foretelling of “Jesus, the suffering servant.”  But the suffering servant in this story is a community – it is all those who suffer – not a single individual.  So I have adapted it to reflect more of its intent.  Dan

Who has believed what we have heard?
And to whom has the presence of God been revealed?
Those who suffered grew up before God like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
they had no majestic form that would draw our attention;

they were undistinguished in their appearance.

They were despised and rejected by others;
a community of suffering and acquainted with grief;
and as those from whom others hide their faces
they were despised, and they were not valued.

Surely this community suffered because of us and our sin;
yet we thought they were being punished by God for their sinfulness.

But those who suffered were wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon them was the punishment that made us whole,
and by their bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and God has laid on them the iniquity of us all.

They were oppressed, and were afflicted,
yet they did not open their mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so they did not open their mouth.
Seized by force and taken into captivity,

who would have ever foreseen their destiny?

For they were cut off from the land of the living;
stricken for the transgression of God’s beloved people.
They were buried with those who had done evil against them

and their grave was shared with their oppressors,
even though they had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in them.

Luke 4: 16, 20-30

Jesus is rejected by his own “family.”

And Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the Sabbath day.  And he stood up to read.

And Jesus closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Jesus, who began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; and they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”  And Jesus said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself; what we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here also in your own country.’”

And Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in the prophet’s own country. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.

And there were many people with leprosy in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”

When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with anger and wrath.  And they rose up and tried to throw Jesus out of the city.  They led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down head first.  But passing through the midst of them Jesus went away.

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