9.12.2010

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 19), Year C

Preface: This week, we are sending this out late. No excuses. We
could have skipped, but this week's texts are just too meaningful for
us...touched places that are raw and reactive...there is too much here
for us to pass it by. And so, we're at the beach and this is sort of
worshipful engagement - finishing this up over muscadines, tidewater
peaches and a view of the water at Ocracoke Island. Recently, several
folks have asked how "we" (Laura & Matt) do "this" (co-author these
reflections). Generally speaking, we read the text, have a brief
conversation about what we took from the text, and then one of us
(Matt or Laura) writes out of that conversation and personal
meditation. Then the other takes it, tries to complete what was
started, and it's all ready for readers. It's not always that
seamless. But in general, it works. It enriches our lives and helps
us be mindful of how these stories shape our lives and how our lives
shape our understanding of these stories.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable
in your sight, O Lord, for you are my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm
19:14, paraphrased)

Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28 and Psalm 14
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-10


Have you ever been the receiver of Mercy?

Have you ever been Forgiven?

Have you ever gone so far afield....done things SO wrong....been SO
off....ventured SO deeply into SUCH darkness that you felt you were
unlovable?

....and then....

you were loved again?

That does not make any sense, does it?

(For the record, Laura can't read these first few sentences without
crying. It is overwhelming and real.)

In the stories we find in scripture we see so many times where the
People of God egregiously transgress and God again and again reminds
them that they are the Loved Creation of God. To the worst offender,
the farthest outcast, the most lost sheep, Mercy is shown and
Forgiveness is offered. Sometimes the transgressor is seeking that
Mercy, and sometimes they are not. And still, time and time again,
God shows up...often in unexpected ways.

The passage from Jeremiah this week is DARK. It talks of devastation
and judgment and about a God who will not relent. And to those who
heard the prophet, this must have been scary indeed. Prophets were
called to name injustice, to envision and describe the results of the
communities action, to foretell destruction. Jeremiah lived in
precarious times - through many kings and the fall of Solomon's Temple
in Jerusalem. Israel has evolved to be much more than a band of
tribes living in covenant. There is great political wrangling among
various Kingdoms. Jeremiah is warning what this build up of power and
tension will bring. The tone and threat are repeated again and again
through the Hebrew scriptures, calling the faithful back to God.
There were lots of dark times in Israel's past. But even as bad times
continue to unfold, Yahweh did relent, time and time again as the
story goes on (right up to now!).

The Psalmist has shared this lived history of dark times followed by
light times. With this experience in the background, the prayer here
is for deliverance - for Mercy.

In Luke's gospel, Jesus shares two parables for the same teaching.
The first is about a Shepherd who, when losing just one of 100 sheep,
will go looking for the One that is Lost. Now we've talked about
sheep before. They are not bright. The are fully dependent upon
their shepherd. And really, 1 in 100 doesn't seem like a terrible
loss. But the shepherd will go looking...that is the shepherd's job.
And the woman with 10 pieces of silver loses one. The one that is
lost has no value until it is found. She goes to great lengths to
find that one lost piece of silver. It is a time of rejoicing - what
was lost is now found. Both parables leave us with questions (which
is what parables do, right?). Does the value of the 99 sheep or the 9
unlost coins change? Are they part of a greater whole that relies on
finding what is lost? What makes the shepherd or the woman go to such
lengths to find what is lost?

The letters of 1 and 2 Timothy are written to be read as if they were
written to Paul. They were probably written later than Paul was
writing and they were probably written at a time when early churches
were really struggling to understand who was teaching "truth,"
understandings of Jesus' life and ministry that were real and
undistorted (sounds familiar?). The writer is grateful to Jesus
Christ for the grace and mercy received through Jesus' life, ministry,
death and resurrection. The bulk of the rest of the letter is
instruction of how the church and its leadership should behave in
response to that Mercy and Grace.

And so we ask the "So what?" We are receivers of Mercy and Grace.
We've experienced being unlovable and finding ourselves loved. What
do we do with that?

It is not just God. Humans appear to have at least SOME capacity to
show Mercy and Forgive. Because we are Forgiven, we are called to be
vessels of Forgiveness. Because we have been shown Mercy, we are
compelled to be Merciful. Because we have experienced Grace, we are
inclined to be vessels of that same Grace extended to others.

Redeeming and Relenting God,
thank you for Grace
for Mercy
for Love where I feel unlovable.
Help me to turn
and embrace others
with your embrace.
Amen.

© 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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