Third Sunday after the Epiphany - Year C

Nehemiah 8.1-3, 5-6, 8-10
Psalm 19
1 Corinthians 12.12-31
Luke 4.14-21

By show of hands, does anyone out there ever feel like you cannot do Everything Just Right?

Or maybe, more exactly, do you ever get frustrated because you cannot Do or Control Everything?

Accomplishment and competency are pretty highly valued in the places we hang around professionally. It is not explicitly written in anyone's employee handbook, but there are some unspoken expectations that encourage each member to be responsible for all parts.

And we understand that this feeling / fear may be unique to us, but there is also some sort of feeling / fear built in that whispers, "You should know everything. You should know all the rules. You should be good at everything. If there is a failure in another department, you might get blamed...since you are not Completely Competent."

Have you heard that voice?

It is a rotten liar of a voice.

The reality of life in and with God is a much more Grace-Filled and Gracious and Generous space. This week the lectionary scriptures remind us of God's Grace....and they also remind us that it is okay (even necessary) that each of us not be in control of Everything. It is important that each of us understand and play our particular role.

This first passage from Nehemiah is a beautiful example of the Grace of God. "All the people" that are gathering here and listening to Ezra read the book of the law of Moses were Israleites that had recently returned from exile to a destroyed Jersulaem (this story follows on the end of the story found in Chronicles). These folks (or their families) had last seen Jerusalem burning in their rear-view mirror. While they were gone they likely had varied abilities to read and adhere to the law of Moses (being oppressed in a foreign land and all). And so on their return, they took great efforts to re-establish the temple and to re-adhere to the law as they heard it taught. But look at what Ezra and Nehemiah do--they read the law and as people are weeping and feeling guilty for not maintaining all of the laws while in exile, Ezra and Nehemiah extend Grace to them. These two who were in charge of keeping everyone in line (according to Mosiac law), essentially said, "yes, it has been hard....and we have all had our hard times...now put that in the past and appreciate being here and living the the Love of God." (that is our rough interpretation)

Psalm 19 is beautiful. Stop and go read it. You can read it here if you like. It is beautiful. And one of it's important aspects of beauty is that it's writer is quite aware of his/her place in the universe. She knows what God is in charge of. He knows it is his responsibility to keep track of himself. The writer of this Psalm understands (to a depth we don't often experience) dependence on God.

This passage from Paul's letter to the followers of Jesus in Corinth does not need much commentary here. It is the passage that has become the standard as an explanation of 'the Body of Christ'. Eyes and hands finding themselves mutually dependent and such. The important awareness here (for us) is that each member with each member's gifts and deficits and talents and faults is important. Each member does the part she shows up able to do. Each member performs the role he was created to perform. There is no one that is responsible for the success of the whole....and no one can do the part of the other. The hand cannot hear and the foot cannot taste....the hand and foot have their own roles! And the explanation Paul puts out there is that each member fully live in to her / his role.

Jesus lays this example of each person being responsible for their role in a fantastic way that only he could pull off. He walks in to the synagogue in Nazereth, reads one verse from Isaiah describing why he is here, and then says to the folks listening, "I have just read my job description....now if you will excuse me, I have some work to do." And pay attention to what he doesn't say. He does not claim military skill or might. He does not claim ecological equilibrium. He says he came to bring good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, the oppressed set free, and the proclamation of the Lord's favor. He knew what he was there to do and he knew he was not there to Do Everything. We see it in this scene and throughout his life, death, and resurrection. He does some amazing and unusual things, but he does not do Everything Others Expect nor does he attempt to Control Everything.
It is hard to acknowledge that we cannot do it all and know it all. And there is grace waiting for us in that recognition - release, recovery, freedom, favor.

These ears of mine cannot hear all of the world's suffering.
They cannot recognize the emotion of each person that speaks.
These eyes cannot see all the world's potential.
This mouth of mine cannot speak the right words.
These feet cannot move fast enought to get it all done.
These hands are not always gentle.
This heart is not always pure.
Embrace me as I am.
I know that you will.
Absorb me into the body of creation
and guide my heart.
Put me to good use in your Kingdom vision.
Remind me that I am Yours
And that is enough.

© matt & laura norvell 2010 www.settingourstones.org
we want to share this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be with you.

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