Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Exodus 17: 1 – 17
Psalm 78: 1 – 4; 12 – 16
Philippians 2: 1 – 13
Matthew 21: 23 – 32

[Disclaimer: Normally, Matt and I strive to be “one voice,” as we write these lectionary reflections, carefully referring to “our” thinking and what “we” have pondered. This week, I (Laura) need to deviate a bit from that style…it’s part of the framework! WE still share this work!]

Life is a little crazy for us these days. Collectively in our household this fall, four returned to work as one took a new job. Oh, and Matt was preparing for a trip to Israel in the midst of it all. In a good week prior to September 1, we Try to think and talk about the lectionary reflections for a solid 5 days before we start writing, and we strive to post by Tuesday night...

That was Before September (commonly referred to as B.S.). Lately, the lectionary reflection has been a bit more of a Discipline. I have class on Monday afternoons and Tuesday nights. And generally speaking, I have 250-300 pages of reading to do weekly. And that mostly happens on the weekends. So interpreting the lectionary passages on top of all that, plus our jobs, has put us on sort of “RUSH” mode. Oh, and did we mention that Matt’s cutting his teeth on his New Job?

And yesterday, Matt left for 12 days in Israel. And we sort of had time to talk about the lectionary. Sort of. A little bit.

And packing is hard. And travel stress is hard. And this weekend it seemed the kids were all over the map. And the laundry needed done. And the dog needed fed. Oh, yeah…so did the kids. And the grass was tall. And on and on and On.

So Monday, I opened the email that Matt sent moments before he left for the airport that afternoon, sharing some words for our Lectionary Reflection. And they are Good Words – words to be shared later. But Monday night is a blur of getting home from class, gathering the kids from their respective schools, putting some semblance of a meal on the table, hastily blessing it and devouring it, then racing Brook 22 miles across the county to Scouts. Then home to oversee baths and bedtime for the girls, decompress over dishes and laundry, debrief with Brook upon his return, and collapse into a sleeping heap.

And then Tuesday comes. And the day is piled up with a backlog of work, followed again by gathering everyone up from school, throwing something like dinner before them and then racing off to class, where I field emails and texts about their Wellbeing.

Tonight, as I was gathering with classmates I posted this to my Facebook status:
“Laura is murmuring about the lectionary blog. Maybe if I hit my laptop with a staff, words will come out…”

And So it Goes.

This week in the Hebrew scriptures, we see our friends the Israelites continuing to wander around the wilderness following the direction of Yahweh through Moses. A quick recap....they were slaves, became unhappy, God provided their release; they became hungry in the wilderness, they complained against God and Moses, God provided food for them; and now we see that they have come to a place where they are desperate for water. It is interesting to note the language in this (and the last few chapters also) passage. They complain specifically about why things have been done to them...it is all in the passive voice...the way they speak it is as if they had no choice in the matter....I wonder if this was actually true. They had been brought this far and they were still complaining against Moses and God because they feel they have been snookered in to being out in the wilderness without any food or water. Moses, like many leaders, takes these criticisms to heart. He is personally hurt. He cares for these folks and they are complaining and he feels responsible. And it appears Yahweh has basically the same response when Moses takes the new complaint to him. An interesting question (we will not know the answer to on this side of the Veil) is how does God respond when folks complain and threaten God because they believe they (the humans) know more than God does. Hmmmm.....

The Psalm this week is once again one of Thanksgiving, recounting how God met the Israelites need for water in the desert. What more does one need? Water, cool and fresh, in a dry time. The Psalm doesn’t, however, say anything about the people Complaining. In fact, the Psalmist declares that “we” will tell of the “glorious deeds.” Hmm. Yes, glorious at what point? When did “we” decide the deeds were “glorious.” In the wilderness, everyone seemed pretty set on Grumbling.

Paul’s letter to the community at Philippi is written from prison, and it is a letter that addresses concerns and conflicts that the church was experiencing in the broader community (persecution, false prophets, differing interpretations of teaching, etc., etc.) and inside the church community (some falling out between leaders). The chosen text calls the community back to Christ’s example of humility. Jesus, in the face of persecution, humbles himself on a cross in death. The end of the chosen text is interesting – “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you…” Ah, is that the Discomfort they are feeling? The Unsettled space they find themselves in? God at work within them?

Finally, and perhaps most Perplexingly, Jesus is in the Temple, teaching. He’s been approached by elders and priests who are questioning his authority to do this. These priests and elders are Murmuring, and Jesus reminds them that it is their actions and not their Words that will make a difference. And he responds with a parable – as he so often does – a story that Does Not Sink In Right Away. Go ahead. Read it again and again and again. Kind of frustrating? This is not just a simple story. It has to work on you a bit. And even after it has, you will probably continue to find meaning or perhaps confusion in it each time you visit.

Throughout the wilderness story, the word “murmur” is used to describe this perpetual complaining. Murmur. It just sounds unsettled, doesn’t it? In Paul’s letter to Phillipi, the first verse past this weeks selections advises “do all things without murmuring and arguing…”

But are we capable of that?
And when we do, do we Grow or Change or Experience God?
Where are you murmuring in life right now?
How do you sense God’s grace present in response to your murmuring?

You can look to the stars in search of the answers
Look for God and life on distant planets
Have your faith in the ever after
While each of us holds inside the map to the labyrinth
And heaven's here on earth

We are the spirit the collective conscience
We create the pain and the suffering and the beauty in this world
Heaven's here on earth

In our faith in humankind
In our respect for what is earthly
In our unfaltering belief in peace and love and understanding

Heaven’s in our heart

Heaven’s Here On Earth, Tracy Chapman

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