11.12.2008

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Judges 4: 1 – 7
Psalm 123 1
Thessalonians 5: 1 – 11
Matthew 25: 14 - 30

Obedience.
Readiness.
Preparation.
Responsibility.

The themes that come up this week are fairly closely connected to those from last week's readings. As we near the end of the liturgical year there is a definite looking ahead to what might be next and a flurry of scriptures that encourage us to reflect on our roles in the future.

First we find the the book of Judges an example of the Disobedience--Punishment--Repentance--Forgiveness--Obedience--Disobedience cycle that we see throughout human history and specifically replayed over and over again with the people of Israel. The really interesting thing in this passage is the way God speaks through the current Judge of Israel--Deborah--and tells the country to prepare for battle to liberate themselves from the oppression of the Canaanites. An interesting note on this text is that the place Deborah directs the Israelites to gather to meet their oppressors in war is one of the most fought on pieces of property in all of history--The Valley of Megiddo (same site as the proposed end battle of Armageddon). Mount Tabor overlooks the valley which is the main flat thoroughfare from the Mediterranean Sea over in to the resource-rich lands further east (modern day Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia). It is an immense plain surrounded by mountains on both sides that was hotly contested because it was a primary transit / trade route from the Sea to points East and whomever controlled that valley controlled a lot of resources. Following the direction of God through Deborah put the Israelites in the best position to try and take their freedom back. Be Obedient to God and you will be Liberated.

Psalm 123 is a prayer for help by the whole community. While the first stanza is written in the first person point of view, the second stanza focuses on the need of the community, asking for God's mercy on "us." It refers to a collective soul – a whole comprised of many parts. Not only is the community asking for help; it is also asking for dependence upon the Lord. Obviously, they have a deep desire to be Obedient, and at the same time they recognize their own anxiety and temptation to be Disobedient.

Paul continues his counsel to the Followers in Thessalonica as to how they are to live to "Be Prepared" for the Day of the Lord. His words echo the words of Jesus found in other spots in Matthew of That Day coming like a thief in the night, not knowing the day or hour, and to Stay Awake. Also in Paul's encouragement he gives a shorter version of the dressing instructions found in Ephesians (Full Armor of God). He is telling these folks that they need to continue on as they are doing so that as the Day of the Lord will come unexpectedly they will always be prepared. A constant state of readiness. Hyper-vigilant. You are responsible for keeping yourself and your community prepared for the day to come.


The words of Jesus found in Matthew can be read as quite harsh. His take-home message here seems to be "don't be lazy or stupid"...and "to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away." Jesus has been accused of being a socialist, but this does not seem to match up! Actually, this story comes in the middle of several parables and sayings describing the End of Days / the Day of the Lord / etc. It does not seem wise to take these words as literally speaking to those in our society who do not have many resources and those that do. It appears he is attempting to make a point similar to the one Paul makes in Thessalonians--you must be responsible for yourself and know that your actions today may / can / will have consequences in the future. In order to be Prepared to be Judged, you must take Responsibility for yourself and choose to either Obey or Disobey God.

So it feels like this week it is even somehow more important to ask What Are We To Do With These Scriptures? A quick answer can be that we should make sure we are Obedient to God today because we have no idea when the next Tomorrow will be our last one. But even so, what does Obedience to God look like for you? Is it strict adherence to laws? Is it living in to the spirit of the teachings of Jesus? How are we to be Responsible with who we are and what we have?

Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale

by Dan Albergotti

Measure the walls. Count the ribs. Notch the long days.
Look up for blue sky through the spout. Make small fires
with the broken hulls of fishing boats. Practice smoke signals.
Call old friends, and listen for echoes of distant voices.
Organize your calendar. Dream of the beach. Look each way
for the dim glow of light. Work on your reports. Review
each of your life's ten million choices. Endure moments
of self-loathing. Find the evidence of those before you.
Destroy it. Try to be very quiet, and listen for the sound
of gears and moving water. Listen for the sound of your heart.
Be thankful that you are here, swallowed with all hope,
where you can rest and wait. Be nostalgic. Think of all
the things you did and could have done. Remember
treading water in the center of the still night sea, your toes
pointing again and again down, down into the black depths.

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