March 19 – Today, the Church commemorates Joseph, guardian of our Lord. All that we know of Joseph we learn from the first two chapters of the Gospels according to St. Matthew and St. Luke. He is mentioned only in passing in Luke 3:23; John 1:45; John 6:42 as the supposed father of Jesus. (Mark…
December 2, 2016
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the needy,
and crush the oppressor.
A few days ago, we celebrated Giving Tuesday, a relatively new social movement which, according to its website, www.givingtuesday.org, kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving. It comes on the heels of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, when those who can, focus on shopping for bargains to satisfy the desires of their loved ones at Christmas.
This age of technology has made it convenient for us to ease the guilt of our selfishness by a mere click of the mouse, or a tap of the screen on our electronic device. A simple lift of the finger and voilà! We have donated to a charitable cause, and can return to life as we’ve always known it, feeling good about ourselves and ignoring those who live in poverty for another year, until Giving Tuesday comes around once again. One more obligation we can check off the list. We don’t even have to come in contact with those poor people we are purporting to help.
However, Scripture tells us that the poor, the needy, the oppressed, should be our utmost concern – not just on Giving Tuesday, but ALWAYS! Care for the poor and oppressed has always been chief among the mission priorities that God established for the people of Israel. Psalm 72, a psalm written for the coronation of a king, makes it clear that these are principal areas of royal responsibility.
Yet care for the poor and oppressed is a shared responsibility. Throughout the ages, it has been a chief concern of the church – that is, us. In our baptismal vows, we Lutheran Christians promise to “care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace.”
But far too often we are content to leave it up to the charitable agencies and the government. In a society which only seems to value material possessions, our responsibility far too often fails to go beyond that check we write once a year, or that electronic donation we make on Giving Tuesday.
Though written for a king, Psalm 72 is directed at us. We serve a God who sent us Christ to model justice, kindness, faithfulness and mercy for us; and to reawaken in us that sense of concern for all our sisters and brothers. This Advent, may it be so.
Almighty God, you gave your Son both as a sacrifice for sin and a model of the godly life. Enable us to receive him always with thanksgiving, and to conform our lives to his; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
[Lutheran Book of Worship, prayer 243]
December 1, 2016
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19
Acts 1:12-17, 21-26
And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.
The reading from the book of Acts tells the story of the selection of Matthias, the apostle chosen to replace Judas Iscariot among the twelve. Nothing else is known about Matthias in Scripture outside of this account of his selection.
Matthias is an obscure, unknown figure, almost a footnote, who only rates a verse or two in the Book of Acts. To be an apostle of Jesus Christ, one has to wonder why he gets such noticeably shabby treatment. Perhaps it’s because he was a late addition, a replacement for the most heinous of the apostles at that. It would be worth reading the three verses left out of our lesson. (In case you’re curious, they’re not pretty. They describe the death of Judas.)
How Matthias was chosen also seems odd. They cast lots. But that wasn’t quite as inconsequential as it would appear. Casting lots was a practice used in those days when important decisions needed to be made but there was not enough guidance that had already been provided through wisdom and/or Scripture. To put it in modern terms, “a roll of the dice.” The apostles saw it, however, as a revelation of God’s will.
I can’t help but read these verses and recall my election as bishop. Even now, two years and three months into my call, there are days when I have moments of extreme uncertainty, asking myself, “Why didn’t I drop out when I had the chance?”
But it is in times like those that I recall the words of Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, who spoke to us the second day of our week at Bishop’s Formation School. She said, “Remember you were the one who was called by the Spirit and elected by the church.”
I think most of us can identify with Matthias. Most of us have walk-on parts in life. We probably won’t make into Wikipedia, and probably won’t rate a full-page obituary in The New York Times. However, when God chooses you and Jesus calls you to fulfill God’s mission, who you are makes no difference.
Like Matthias, we may (or may not) at one point in our life, experience “fifteen minutes of fame.” But in that quarter hour, and indeed in every moment that God gives us breath, each and every one of us can respond to God’s call to build up Christ’s Body, the Church. We are entrusted with sharing his word of grace, love, and forgiveness in every way available to us.
God continues God’s revelation through us. We are God’s people. Our place with God has been made sure through our Lord Jesus Christ. We are reminded of that each week when we approach the Lord’s Table and receive His body and blood.
Gracious God, we thank you for Matthias and all your servants and witnesses of times past. In your mercy, fill us with the wisdom of your Spirit, that we may know your purpose and live to your glory. Give us as you gave them, the courage to proclaim your name without fear and the faith to serve you with gladness. Amen