Tuesday, April 9th
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 April 9th: Judges 9:7-15; Psalm 20; and 1 John 2:18-28. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
If you’ve been reading more of the Bible this Lenten season, and I hope you have, if you’ve become more engaged with the Word of God, then you may find yourself both celebrating and arguing with the text. This is not a lack of faith. This is relationship. This climaxes in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus brings God to come and live among us as one of us. I don’t know how much of a service it is when we treat Jesus as so holy that we separate salvation from incarnation. There’s a difference between sanctity and sanctimonious. Jesus’ life shows that He can handle our questions and concerns. Can we?
The Old Testament has a raucous relationship with God, which is not to say an irreverent relationship with God. The Hebrew text is not shy in sharing the author’s tumultuous relationship with God.
At this weekend’s Youth Group gathering, Rev. Jenn Valentine shared a meditation with us based on Psalm 13 from the New Living Translation of the Bible. It goes like this:
“O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you look the other way?
2How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
with sorrow in my heart every day?
How long will my enemy have the upper hand?
3Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
4Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.
5But I trust in your unfailing love.
I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
6I will sing to the Lord
because he is good to me.”
I had never caught the imagery of the Psalmist chasing after God demanding justice while God seems to continue walking away. I was astonished by vs 3’s “Turn and answer me!” The Psalms are part of the liturgy of the Jewish faith and they do not shy away from an honest relationship with God. When God feels distant and unperturbed, the person of faith calls Him out. This may seem uncharacteristic to our liturgical ears, but the Psalmist vents and then ends with praise for Yahweh. It is relationship.
In my own relationship with the text, when I read today’s passage from Judges I smile. I love its taunting message to power. Those who seek to rule over others, to subjugate and dominate them, do so because they have nothing productive to offer. Can you imagine this passage being read to one of Israel’s or Judah’s kings, or, for that matter, to any of today’s abusers of power? It makes me smile.
But I have to admit that I am left unimpressed by the sentiment behind the passage from 1 John. Raymond Brown wrote with such penetrating insight in his commentaries on John, and he emphasized the insular nature of that community. Anyone who disagreed and left, even for another Christian community, was an “antichrist.” The author was sure the end-time was upon them because people chose to believe in Christ differently. This is a spiritual affliction from which we suffer still today as Christians and churches.
Lent is our chance to continue to deepen our relationship with Christ, and sometimes that means challenging God with our questions, but it also means being faithful enough to wait for answers, even answers that are unexpected. Don’t be afraid to say, “Turn and answer me.” A living relationship can handle it.
Faith, love and chitchat.
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