Jeremiah 17:19-27 Romans 7:13-25 John 6:16-27 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it,…
Monday, February 22, 2016
Psalm 105:1-15 [16-41] 42
God said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You’re one hard-headed people. I couldn’t stand being with you for even a moment—I’d destroy you. So take off all your jewelry until I figure out what to do with you.’”
[Exodus 33:5 The Message]
Fame, fortune, power, success, security. All these are human motivations that are driven into us since birth.
But has it ever occurred to you that God calls us to be none of these things?
God calls us to be faithful, to be in relationship with God, to trust in God’s promises. That is a constant struggle for us, especially in this society that glorifies individual achievement and personal success. In our world of either-or, those who fall short of success are perceived as failures.
In order to enter into an understanding of today’s portion of the Scripture reading from Exodus, it is necessary to read the events that led up to God’s harsh criticism of the Israelites.
In the previous chapter  Moses goes up to Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments. He took so long that the people became impatient and decided to create a God for themselves. They wanted a God who would be present with them, not one who seemed distant or unresponsive. So they took off their jewelry and made an image of a calf out of their gold rings and bracelets. And God was angered to the point of wanting to destroy Israel.
After all God had done for them, chiefly to free them from slavery in Egypt, they quickly forgot and went seeking a visible god, an idol in the image of the golden calf. The good news for the Israelites is that God did not destroy them.
The story of Israel’s relationship with God is a seemingly never-ending succession of episodes similar to this one. That relationship continues between us and God to this day. We long for God’s presence so we sin and create idols for ourselves. Fame, fortune, power, success, security – all become our gods. But they are not God.
This time of Lent invites us to rethink our relationship with God, to focus our calling on living faithfully. Are we confident in the knowledge that God cares for us, that God is always present for us and with us, that God provides for all our needs?
That, I believe, is part of the reasoning behind fasting and giving up things at this time. We “take off all our jewelry,” as our reading puts it, to create a sense of faith and trust in the providence of God.
Despite God’s anger at Israel, God did not destroy them. We, too, have that assurance of God’s forgiveness through the life, death and resurrection of God’s son, Jesus Christ.
Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
[from the Book of Common Prayer]
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
naked I’ll return to the womb of the earth.
God gives, God takes.
God’s name be ever blessed.
Not once through all this did Job sin; not once did he blame God.
[Job 1:21-22 The Message]
Why do bad things happen to good people?
It’s a question that we’ve all asked ourselves at least once in our lifetime and for which we will never come up with a plausible answer.
While we’re at it, let’s list a couple of variations of the same question.
Why does God allow evil and suffering in the world?
If God is love, why is there so much hatred?
Over the course of history myriads of novelists, playwrights, essayists and poets have struggled to answer these questions.
A couple of my favorites include C. S. Lewis, who wrote The Problem of Pain, from which I gleaned one of my all-time favorite quotes: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
To try to explain the book of Job – our focus reading for today – in a brief meditation such as this is an exercise in futility. Yet to avoid wrestling with the question of sin, evil, and suffering is to avoid the reality of life.
You and I live rather confidently most of the time. We can hold down jobs, complete our chores or school work satisfactorily, and care for people in our intimate families with some degree of kindliness. Occasionally, however, things fall apart.
Sometimes they fall apart physically. Our health fails; a job loss keeps money from going into the bank account, or an appliance breaks or pipes in the house burst and the cost to fix it is far more than we have in savings.
Sometimes, things fall apart emotionally and spiritually. A spouse or a parent dies and no words can be said to comfort the grief.
Sometimes, things fall apart in relationships. Divorce happens. Things are said and done in anger which need to be set right, but we are reluctant to take the first step toward reconciliation. We are left feeling alone, betrayed, excluded, humiliated.
It is human nature to take the credit when things are going well, but to blame God when things go poorly. “Why me, Lord?” are the first words out of our mouths.
Even Job, as iconic as legend has made him out to be, was driven to the brink and lashed out against God, earning Job a stiff rebuke in return.
Life does not come wrapped up in a neat little package wrapped in a pretty pink ribbon. Life can be messy.
But the good news is that God is with us through the mess. He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us [Romans 8:32], knows what it is like to go through the agonies of life. We are not alone in our suffering.
About two weeks ago, a young pastor in our synod lost his wife to cancer. Pastor Jeff Goggins of St. John Lutheran Church in Canal Fulton, took to the blogosphere and allowed us all to walk alongside him through the journey of his wife’s last days on earth. He calls his blog, “Finding God in All Things.” You can read his reflections by clicking HERE. I encourage you to take the time. I promise you it will be time well spent. Your faith will be bolstered by the witness of this pastor and his three daughters. Nothing that I have written can compare to this marvelous testament of faith.
God gives, God takes.
God’s name be ever blessed.