Lenten Blog | March 26, 2020
"In his word I hope"
Throughout the year, the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ produces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for Thursday, March 26th: Psalm 130; Ezekiel 1:1-3; 2:8—3:3; and Revelation 10:1-11. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
Today was supposed to be the start of the 2020 baseball season. At 3:37pm (yeah, who knows why 3:37?) I was supposed to be watching the Red Sox play the Blue Jays in Toronto. Instead, I’ll be joining a weekly Zoom live-stream check-in with the clergy of the Hampshire and Hampden Associations that will be hosted by the Associate Conference Minister, Rev. Jill Graham.
The thought of some 35,000 people gathered in one ball park, passing hot dogs and drinks from vendor to adjacent seat to adjacent seat until it gets to you, high-fiving the guy next to you when the Sox hit their first home run of the season, the whole picture of an Opening Day baseball game seems so strange right now as we are still anticipating the peak of the Corona Virus pandemic. Our reality has changed. It’s not to our liking, but it’s not up to us.
Both Ezekiel and John of Patmos are living through times of harsh change that are well beyond their ability to control. Ezekiel lives among the exiles in Babylon. He was a Temple priest. He witnessed the destruction of God’s sanctuary, the defeat of God’s people and their deportation to a foreign land. Most of Israel had disappeared due to assimilation. When they were deported, they gave up. They became like the ones who had conquered them. The ones who remained faithful to Yahweh were few in number, defeated and impoverished. To remain faithful to Yahweh instead of accepting the conquering gods of the Babylonians seemed pointless.
John writes the Book of Revelation as an apocalypse. This form of literature is written during times of complete darkness. There is no hope of recovery. The situation is so dire that the only rescue is imagined to be the dramatic intervention of God. Human efforts are futile. John of Patmos is writing at a time when Christians are few in number and scattered, and they are being persecuted by the all-powerful Roman Empire. How could this band of a few believers preaching a crucified Saviour compete against and triumph over the Roman Empire? This would be the definition of absurdity.
Both books share the same imagery of ingesting the Word of God. The Word must become our nourishment, our sustenance. It must be as necessary a part of our lives as food. Only then can the Word feed us. As we think back to Ezekiel, history shows us that the Jewish faith remains as strong as ever and that the Babylonian Empire survives only in monuments and museums. As we remember John of Patmos, we still gather as Christians all around the world some 2,000 years later while the Roman Empire is studied for its rise and its fall.
In these uncertain and worrisome days of pandemic, let us especially now count on the assurance of our faith in Christ. When our reality has changed and changing it back is beyond our control, let us trust even more in God’s Word. Let the Word become as nourishing and essential to us as the food we share with our physical bodies.
And if you would, now read again today’s Psalm, a hymn of longing, trust and hope. As in times past, this time too shall pass.
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