Thursday, September 24, 2009

For such a time as this

When I was a kid, I used to spend hours reading stories from the Old Testament. I loved them--all those vivid accounts of God interacting with his people; all those fascinating characters.

Esther was always one of my favorites... As a little girl, I loved to read about the beautiful woman who became a queen, and who dared to bend the rules and save her people from destruction. See, Esther started out as just another girl, but God used her to deliver an entire population from death. Talk about being in the right place at the right time.

This week, we'll hear a little of Queen Esther's story, and how she was able to use her influence to stand up for a people who didn't have a voice. We're continuing our theme of laying a foundation of good, solid life lessons, and this week's is just that: to speak up for those who can't speak for themselves, even when we might catch some flak for doing so.

Our lesson from Mark gives us more solid advice about dealing with people weaker than ourselves. It's vivid--maybe even a little shocking--but sometimes we need this kind of wake-up call. We're called to be the salt of the earth... And if we don't fill that role, then who will?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

It doesn't all revolve around you.

Solar System.
Originally uploaded by popoPsan
If last week we learned to bite our tongues, this week, we get another lesson for good living from James: remember that it doesn't all revolve around you.

We're to let go of jealousy and selfish ambition, and to take up a "gentleness born of wisdom" that comes from God. And it will be a good life.

And I agree that I'd like to live in a world free of hypocrisy, selfishness, judgmentalism and the like--it's just scary to be the one to start, sometimes. I mean, really: it's hard to be considerate all the time, especially of inconsiderate people.

But, then, I guess it's not an easy work we're called to. As I was pondering this, words of an good ol' hymn popped into my head. (The third verse, so I confess that I had to Google to get 'em all right...) They come from "This is My Father's World" (with apologies for having only masculine images of God):
This is my Father's world.  
O let me ne'er forget
that though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father's world:
why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad!
So we also rejoice in the words of Psalm 1, which imagine our faithfulness as infinitely stronger and more "real" than the ways of evil.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

God's ReCreation

Honeycomb drip
Originally uploaded by chrisjohnbeckett

This fall, we're celebrating God's ReCreation for several weeks in worship. (We thought that after spending the summer tearing down walls of injustice, it'd be good to spend some time in re-creating the good stuff, in collaboration with God.)

There will be many good and meaningful things to come, and this week it all begins. Our scripture lessons for the week set us off in the right direction, with some basic ground rules and perspective to help in our work.

James admonishes us to watch what we say: our words can be dangerous weapons against each other and God. But, then, they also have great potential for life-giving power.

Psalm 19 lays a much more lovely vision--it sings of the beauty of God, as present in creation and in God's law. Both are deliciously sweet. (As sweet as the honeycomb's drippings, it says.)

Which is to say, I think, that it's in our power to bear sweetness or only sour. So hold your tongue. Save it for the sweet stuff...

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Passing Judgment

We've all seen him--that old, scruffy guy in the intersection holding a cardboard sign emblazoned with a plea for mercy: "Unemployed, anything helps", it might say, or "Disabled, please help". And while we might roll down our windows and hand over a couple of dollars, or the change in our ash tray; while we might offer to walk over to the nearest 7-Eleven and buy him a sandwich, sometimes less-than-generous thoughts pass through our minds. We think, "Man, just get a job" or "He'll just use the money to get his next fix."

In this week's scripture from James, we are warned not to pass these kinds of judgments on the poor, because God can work through them--bless them--just as he can the rich. He loves us all as his children, rich or poor, and wants us to love each other the same way.

Jesus' ministry was all about this kind of love. We'll hear the story this week of how he met a Gentile woman who was begging for the kind of mercy that only he could give: her daughter "had an unclean spirit", and she knew that Jesus could heal the little girl. Jesus had a strange reaction--he told the woman that "it is wrong for the dogs to eat the food that was meant for the children." She responds by saying that "even the dogs eat the scraps that the children leave behind".

Instead of being affronted, she responds to Jesus with humility. She has a need, and she is not ashamed to beg for Jesus' help. Jesus has pity on her and heals her daughter, even though she is a Gentile.

We are called to this same generosity, but often we fall short. What are some judgments that we pass on those who ask it of us?

We'll use your replies in worship this Sunday, so please post your thoughts in the comments!