Friday 28 May 2021

The God Who Sees

O Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek;
you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear
to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed,
so that those from earth may strike terror no more.

—Psalm 10:17-18

With spring shading into summer, and signs of new beginnings all around, it seems odd to think that this is the final message I will be writing to you this academic year, before we take a much-needed break in July and August.

It has been a year of soul-searching for us at ICS, as we have asked ourselves some hard questions about the educational role we play in a society that continues to entrench systemic injustices of various kinds. I myself have embarked on a listening journey, apprenticing myself to the work of racialized and Indigenous philosophers and theologians, as I prepare to give the Jay Newman lecture to the Canadian Theological Society and also teach a new course on Black thinkers in the tradition of American Pragmatism.

Dean Dettloff, a PhD student I supervise at ICS, will be defending his joint ICS/VU dissertation on the same day, which explores many of the same issues, and asks very hard questions about historical Christian complicity in the West’s global colonization project. Dean has chosen the above passage from Psalm 10 to be read aloud before he offers his defense on June 1, and I could not think of a more apt passage to help us reflect upon the difficult times in which we live.

When Psalm 10 begins, God is far away, and the psalmist is not happy about it. But slowly, surely, the Psalm advances through all the suffering and evil it recounts to rediscover a God who remains with those who suffer and who helps them. “But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief, that you may take it into your hands” (vs. 14).

We profess faith in a God who not only notices trouble and grief, but does so in order to take it into God’s hands. We pause to ponder the mystery of a God who hears the cry of the oppressed and takes their suffering upon himself. We pause to ponder a messiah who feels every act of oppression and liberation, however large or small, as something that is done to himself (Matthew 25). We pause to ponder how we might best respond to the solidarity God shows with those who hurt.

Thank you, friends, for accompanying us on our journey this year. Thank you for sharing in our ongoing pursuit of wisdom and discernment as we ask difficult questions of ourselves and others. I pray that you will all have a restful, regenerative summer, and that we will meet again in this space next fall, energized by a God who is able to accomplish abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

Shalom, my friends!

Ron Kuipers