Monday, September 24, 2018

Lectionary 26 B - Numbers 11:4-29

Numbers 11:4-29
The children of Israel, fairly well fed on manna and quail, weep in the wilderness because they long for the days when they imagine they dined with dignity. Truth is the Egyptians stopped giving them straw to make bricks so it is unlikely their task masters gave them fish to eat “for nothing”. We tend to color the past in ways that fill in the blanks of our present complaints. Sometimes we imagine the past better than it could have been. Often we imagine it worse than it was. But either way we are not satisfied with whatever is and therefore long for what never was. And so the children of Israel throw a tantrum and Moses becomes despondent and the Lord becomes very angry and the dysfunctional Exodus family tries to figure out how to live together in the desert when no one is happy. When the very angry Lord calms down the despondent Moses is instructed to share the load and the solution to the people’s displeasure is the Spirit of the Lord resting upon the seventy appointed along with two others who were not approved which is often how God acts because the Spirit of the Lord cannot be contained or easily explained. The person who is most moved is Moses which means he will refrain from complaining, “why have you treated your servant so badly?” at least for the time being and get back to leading which is what God called him to do. And the children of Israel will quiet down and be grateful they have something to eat, even if it is “what is it” (manna) and a small bird with not much meat. As a side note I recently had a Veal stuffed Quail with New Zealand Elk tenderloin with blueberry gastrique at Next Bistro that was very tasty though I doubt it would have made the Exodus kosher manna menu. Too bad. So sad.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Lectionary 25 B - Mark 9:30-37

Mark 9:30-37
On Christmas Eve 1988 I worshiped at the Cathedral Church of Christ in Liverpool, England. I sat somewhere in the middle of what is the second longest cathedral in the world that houses the largest pipe organ in the United Kingdom. The organ lived up to its reputation while over a thousand voices sang “O Come All Ye Faithful” and choirs and cantors and canons processed down the center aisle with considerable pomp and circumstance. At the very end of the liturgical parade, resplendent in garments of gold and crowned with jeweled miter while leaning on an ornate shepherd’s crook, the bishop of Liverpool walked with a small child in his arms. I don’t mean to speak poorly of the church, and truth is December 24, 1988 might be my favorite Christmas Eve service ever, but I’m guessing the bishop of Liverpool carrying a borrowed baby is not what Jesus meant by “whoever wants to be first must be last…” I’m just saying. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Lectionary 25 B - James 3:13-4:8

James 3:13-4:8
If it were as easy as James makes it sound “submit yourselves to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you” the devil would be forever on the run. But then it’s the first part “submit yourselves to God” that is the most difficult to do which is why we are always dealing with “the devil inside.” (INXS) We might be tempted to think God holds back until we act “draw near to God and God will draw near to you” which is why submitting to God would seem to be all about us. But if submitting to God is predicated on the belief that God gifts us with wisdom from above then what we become in submitting is what God already is – “pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy” and the devil cannot long endure such good gifts.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Lectionary 25 B - Psalm 54

Psalm 54 
The lectionary often skips over verses that call for the destruction of enemies even if there is good reason for enemies to be destroyed. Repaying evil with evil doesn’t seem to fit the pattern of following the Christ who instructs disciples to turn the other cheek and pray for those who persecute them. There is good reason to follow Christ in a world where pious people believe acting in ruthless ways to defend the honor of a prophet is justified. But the psalmist does not advocate for actively striking his enemies and even though his prayer is not for their welfare he leaves vindication in the hands of the Lord. (Romans 12:19) That is because “vindicate me” assumes that the psalmist is in relationship with the Lord and that in their rising against the righteous the ruthless are rising against God as well and God is more than able to defend God's honor, thank you very much. We can and should pray for the ruthless to experience consequences for what they have done to others if for no other reason than to spare the innocent from the designs of the insolent. But in the spirit of the Christ we might also pray that the ruthless be freed from the ways of deceit and violence for their own sake for a merciless life hell bent on the destruction of others will reap what it sows. 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Lectionary 25 B - Jeremiah 29:18-20

Jeremiah 11:18-20 
Jeremiah gives voice to the cry and complaint of the un-numbered and un-named throughout human history who led to the slaughter have looked to God, (or anyone who will listen) for help. But help does not always arrive in a timely fashion as Jeremiah himself will find out when his story of lament and complaint ends in silence. Despite all indications to the contrary we believe justice will have its day and the cause of the righteous will be upheld by the God who judges the heart and the mind. However, it may be that we who pray forgiveness for things done and left undone, things said and left unsaid, who have waited for God to act on behalf of those who suffer while God waited for us to act, will be judged equally guilty. “It was the Lord who made it known to me” means we are God’s agents of mercy and justice in a world that devises evil schemes against the weak and powerless. Too often Christian backs bristle at slights against the practice of our individual piety while the plight of those literally “led to the slaughter” hardly registers a reaction. Granted, the world will not conform to the kingdom of God and works against the principles of God’s reign, but when we are silent in the face of suffering we acquiesce to the evil schemes that would cut off the word of life from the land of the living.