Tuesday, March 12th
Throughout the year, the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ produces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for March 12th: Psalm 17; Zechariah 3:1-10; and 2 Peter 2:4-21. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
Yesterday, today and tomorrow the Lectionary directs us to read Psalm 17. When this is done, its purpose is to let the words sink in and to give us the time to consider them more deeply.
This Psalm may be interpreted as a Psalm of Innocence. We can imagine a person claiming innocence and not finding justice. According to the Mosaic Law, such an aggrieved individual could take his or her case to a higher authority, to the Temple of God in Jerusalem. (Deut. 17:8-11) The court of last resort was God Himself and this Psalm is a prayer for vindication: “Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry; give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit. From you let my vindication come; let your eyes see the right.”
Since we are asked to read this Psalm during Lent, let us imagine its prayer on the lips of Jesus before His Passion. Maybe even in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus may have resorted to these familiar words: “If you try my heart, if you visit me by night, if you test me, you will find no wickedness in me; my mouth does not transgress. As for what others do, by the word of your lips I have avoided the ways of the violent. My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped.” Jesus is sure of His blamelessness and a prayer for justice is not hard to imagine in the terror before His arrest.
The Psalm gives voice to a faithful assurance that justice will be granted by God. The almighty will intervene to “confront” and “overthrow” the false accusers who threaten the person of innocence. This is the normal expectation one would expect when reading the Holy Scriptures. Imagine, then, the scandal of the perfectly innocent man Jesus dying on the cross.
As the Father must look away on Good Friday, justice is replaced by sacrifice and mercy. Is it that at some point in a conflict one side must forsake justice in order to give peace a chance? Retribution feels right, but does it ever reach a conclusion? As Mohandas Gandhi is purported to have said: “An eye for an eye will leave everyone blind.” Does God in Jesus Christ accept the injustice that God would not foist upon any other than Himself in order to make reconciliation possible? Is this our salvation?
I like to hope that the traumatized Jesus who may have prayed these words lingered over its parting message: “As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.”
May our Lenten meditations bring us ever closer to Jesus who loved us so unconditionally.
If you are interested, our Bible study group meets this evening and we are reading from Mark’s Passion. We meet at the church starting at 7:00pm.
Faith, love and chitchat.
Children Sunday School 9:30-10:30am
Nursery care available during worship