Friday, April 5th
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 5th: Psalm 126; Isaiah 43:8-15; and Philippians 2:25 – 3:1. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
When you talk about the Middle East, you’re talking hot and dry. Water is a protected resource in that arid region. Back in biblical times, it was a matter of life and death. If the rains didn’t come as expected, people would die of starvation. Even today, Israel is dotted with wadis. This is an Arabic word that refers to dried up river beds. Water flows through these channels only during the rainy season. Otherwise, there is only hard, cracked clay. It is not difficult to imagine how reassuring it must have been when the rains returned and the river beds filled.
This is the imagery the Psalmist uses as pilgrims ascend the roads leading up to Jerusalem and to its Temple. The pilgrims would have been familiar with the Psalms of Ascent, and together they would have joined in singing them joyously on their way to the House of God: “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses in the Negeb.”
I like particularly that phrase “like those who dream.” Religion gives us a passport to imagine better realities. This is not to deny reality, but dreams, visions, help to inspire us to build better realities. I love when faith motivates us to plan for better than it is. Dreams don’t have to be a contrast between reality and naivete; they can be a contrast between reality and what we hope, what we envision.
Paul understands this. He is imprisoned. Epaphroditus has nearly died. But Paul wasn’t defined by the past or the present. Paul, in Christ, could always dream of the better. And this is how the extremely realistic Paul can say to the Philippians: “Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord.” No matter how bad it is, our faith can let us dream. And for that, "Thank God."
Faith, love and chitchat.
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