Lectionary Reading: Isaiah 64:1-9 (NRSV)Thanksgiving has come and gone. The insane quest for just the right gifts for your loved ones has likely commenced. The decorating of the homes has begun. Our household even managed to get a tre…
Lectionary Reading: Matthew 25:14-30 (NRSV)I’ve seen creativity shut down in groups plenty of times. Someone may come up with a creative idea that is a little too creative. It seems unfeasible and not realistic for actual implementation.&nbs…
Sunday’s Lectionary Reading: Matthew 25:1-13 (NRSV)I never liked the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids. It feels more like a morality play than a parable. It has a ring to it of The Little Red Hen or Aesop’s The Ants and the Grasshopper.There …
Lectionary Reading for Sunday: Matthew 23:1-12 (NRSV)We associate quite a bit with November.Sports fans think about Bedlam which usually occurs during the month and fans of the Cowboys and Sooners usually pay a little more attention to the hype in the …
I am one who has seen affliction
under the rod of God’s wrath;
he has driven and brought me
into darkness without any light;
against me alone he turns his hand,
again and again, all day long.
Lamentations 3:1-3 (NRSV)
This word from Lamentations speaks not of how we imagine the character of God but of the despair that human beings sometimes feel. Jeremiah or a prophet close to him speaks of the emotional and spiritual void following the destruction of the capital city of Jerusalem and God’s Temple which resided there. These are words which most human beings unfortunately experience in some form or fashion as none of us escape suffering unless we refuse to love.
I suppose that people who have been hurt may refuse to love others for fear of being hurt again. Ultimately, our loved ones will leave us as we pass from this life to the next. It is painful and inevitable.
But when tragedies strike, such as the recent hurricanes or earthquake, we are left reeling knowing that we could have been dealt this tragic blow but somehow escaped. The recent mass murder in Las Vegas is an unfortunate punctuation of suffering for an already hurting world.
One of the common threads of inquiry surrounding the Vegas shooting is the search for meaning. Right after it occurred, even though the shooter likely took his own life, we begin to seek out some kind of rationale. Was he connected with terrorist activity? Was he a violent person? Did he have a history of mental illness? What was his motive?
|The flags flying at half-mast
remind us that we are
a people who care for others.
What we are trying to do is to solve the “why” behind this tragedy. Human beings like order and when someone acts irrationally, it disturbs us in profound ways. If a grudge against country music fans were somehow determined, it wouldn’t change the horrible act but it would allow our brains to cope with it more easily.
As we seek to cope with all this recent tragedy, one of the ways that is common is to disengage. We try to ignore it and hopefully it won’t touch us. When we do this, we become more akin to the priest or the Levite in Jesus’ parable than to the good Samaritan. Rather, the Christian call is to compassion. We seek to offer a helping hand to those in need – even if it is just a shoulder to cry on. This is exhausting but we do so because it is needed in a hurting world. We realize that it could just as easily be us weeping.
As we continue to pray for those suffering – as we continue to give toward those seeking recovery from natural disasters – we become a part of the resurrection story with which we view the world. We may not understand why tragedies happen but we can understand our response.
Our narrative fits with the author of Lamentations who moves from despair to hope later in the chapter:
I called on your name, O Lord,
from the depths of the pit;
you heard my plea, “Do not close your ear
to my cry for help, but give me relief!”
You came near when I called on you;
you said, “Do not fear!”
You have taken up my cause, O Lord,
you have redeemed my life.
Lamentations 3:55-58 (NRSV)
This summer while traveling, our family worshiped at Southminster United Church of Canada in Niagara Falls, Ontario. It was not the largest congregation we’ve ever attended. In fact, we were 4 of the 34 in worship that morning.My interest i…
Lectionary Reading: Matthew 20:1-16 (NRSV)This may be my favorite parable of Jesus. It has the surprise or twist ending that is so characteristic of his stories. The parable hasn’t lost any of its difficulty when told to a 21st century audi…
Lectionary Reading: Romans 14:1-12 (NRSV)
|This is not the kind of accountability I need!|
Lectionary reading: Romans 13:8-14 (NRSV)Over the next three weeks, I will preach a series on the difficulties of God’s grace that I’ve entitled, Full: Finding God’s Abundance in Our Lives.When we discover grace, we find that we have more than enough o…
The upcoming Sunday has sometimes been known as Labor Sunday as a part of Labor Day weekend. The United States has celebrated Labor Day as a federal holiday since 1894. It originated as a time when blue collar workers organized for shorter work days and safer working conditions in a time when factory work utilized a greater portion of the work force in this country.
The recognition of the rights of workers pre-dates the urbanization of the USA. In fact, it is contained in the Ten Commandments given to Moses in the book of Exodus.
Exodus 20:8-11 (NRSV) specifically reads:
Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
Of course, not working each day was a novelty in its time. If people didn’t work, they didn’t eat. As we recognized the need for rest from work, we look to a better motivation than “we’re tired!” This particular commandment spiritualizes rest by tying it to God’s example.
Interestingly enough, this commandment applies to children, pre-dating child labor laws.
It applies to their slaves, pre-dating the abolition movement.
|The old idiom “Let sleeping
dogs lie” is actually part of the
10 Commandments on the sabbath
if you think of dogs as livestock.
It applies to their working animals, pre-dating the Humane Society.
It applies to the foreigners among them which meant that they couldn’t go to eat out at a restaurant on the sabbath that was run by someone of another culture.
In other words, this was a sweeping edict which recognized the need for rest of all living things. The impressive thing is that we see an equality in God’s eyes that humans didn’t yet apply to their everyday living. The Bill of Rights extends from this philosophy of application to all people.
As we celebrate Labor Day this coming Monday, let us recognize its origins actually pre-date the founding of our country. God bids us to rest. We don’t often think of this as a spiritual need but merely physical. What does the cycle of rest have to do with our spirits?
Is it possible that we are more likely to implement the fruits of the spirit such as patience, kindness, gentleness or self-control if we are well-rested?
As we worship on Sunday, let us consider God’s commandment of sabbath and how we can more deeply apply it to our lives!
Photo by Alex O’Neal via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.