10.22.2008

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Deuteronomy 34: 1 - 12
Psalm 90: 1 - 6; 13 - 17
1 Thessalonians 1: 1 - 10
Matthew 22: 34 -36


In a recent episode of NPR's "Speaking of Faith" Eckhart Tolle (author of A New Earth and The Power of Now) said stress is created when you are not content where you are and are wishing you were somewhere else. His primary purpose is to help folks live for right Now (as can be seen in one of his recent books).

And it seems to us this is likely true--whether it is a willful personal choice or the circumstances dictate it, when you are not able to appreciate where you are, life is more difficult.

We wonder if Moses was under stress. Unfortunately, this week, we lose Moses. We really lose Moses. And now after all he has been through we see him as he looks out over the Promised Land and he receives some difficult news from the One he has been following--he will not set foot in this place, this magnificent Promised Land to which he has led the murmuring crowd. No - instead he dies alone on a mountain and is mourned for 30 days by Israel. He is praised as a holy man and a great prophet. In fact the reading says there has been no such prophet since. Think about all the psalms we have read through this recent lectionary cycle. So many of them celebrate Moses' actions very specifically. He was a great man. And the Israelites, in spite of their history of grumbling at him, knew this. After all he has experienced in his life, he made it to the mountain overlooking the promised fertile plain, and he went no further. After all the dreams of the Promised Land, he only looked in at it from the edge. We really hope there was already a bumper sticker in existence that said "Life is about the journey, not the destination."

In the Psalm this week there is lots of "time" language where it seems the writer is longing for the days gone by and longing for the days to come, but does not spend any time talking about the satisfaction of the present moment. It must be tough to live that way.

Paul's letter to the Christians in Thessalonica seems to be a fairly good example of someone who is attempting to live in the present moment in as stress-free a way as possible. In fact, it reads as a letter of deep friendship or a love letter affirming how wonderful it is to be in relationship with them today. The author acknowledges that the message that they brought to Thessalonica was not popular – not the toast of the town – but they loved well and did good work and consider this to be beloved community.

In Matthew we find the not often quoted second half of the "Greatest Commandment" conversation where Jesus turns the tables and asks the Pharisees a question about the Messiah. The text of the Gospel of Matthew was written to a Jewish community. With that in mind, the dialogue that Jesus has with the Pharisees becomes a little clearer. Using references that would be clear to every person sitting in the room, Jesus asserts his divinity. He is not just David’s ‘son,’ but he is the Son of Man. The messiah is the fulfillment of God's long-standing covenant with the people of Israel, and Jesus asserts that the Messiah is the son of God. And the interesting thing here (to us) is that the very concept of the Messiah is an idea where folks were looking to the future for someone to come and save / restore them from the current difficult situation they were living in. The idea of a Messiah had developed as the Jews were living under oppressive rulers and watching their homes and holy places being destroyed. And so it is interesting how Jesus spends this time trying to tease out their understanding / expectation of who the Messiah would be and what the Messiah might bring. How ironic that he lived in their midst, awaited and expected and somehow not quite recognized.

It is hard to be present. It is hard to have a rough day and know that it is only one and to regard it as God’s magnificent gift, warts and all. It is hard not to project the angst of today on to tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. Similarly, it is difficult not to look past what we have hoping for something more. And yet, this day and all that it is is gift. The ones in our midst are gift. The kingdom is at hand.

What are ways that you overlook the present?
Are you more apt to look ahead, look behind or look to the present moment?
What is it about the present that we cannot bear?
How can we become friendly with each day as it happens?


Blessed One, Mother-protector and Father-provider,
in each one but also everywhere.
May your name frame our lives and tame our world!
Only in such a Divine reign will the embrace of earth and heaven be realized.
In the interim time, give the poor enough to eat and adequate clean water to drink;
and save the rich from trusting in overfilled barns and overstocked vintage wines.
Transfer your strength to assist us to forgive friends and even enemies;
may this be our gift-offering in gratitude for divine amnesty.
Help us not to be overcome by temptation;
But when in the pit of alienation and self-indulgence reach down and free us.
Help us never to lose hope that your power to transform our petty kingdoms
into your glorious dominion will in the end prevail. Amen.

Contextual rendition of the Lord’s Prayer by Sathianathan Clarke, Wesley Theological Seminary

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