8.11.2012

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year B


  • 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33 and Psalm 130 •
  • Ephesians 4:25-5:2 •
  • John 6:35, 41-51
  •  
    For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  This is Newton's work.  His third law of motion.  Science.
     
    You reap what you sow.
     
    We are strangely connected and affected by our choices, well past their implementation.  Sometimes the connection between action and reaction is separated by so much time and distance that we cannot really see the connection between the two.  It is lost in our history somewhere. 
     
    But our actions always (always!) have consequences.  Some consequences are "positive," others not so much. Sometimes we go through life completely unaware of a chain of events in which we were participants. Knowing this - being aware that all of our choices affect others - has the power to ground us in something bigger. 

    Are there filters through which you would like all of your choices to pass? Are there times when you need to sort back through the chapters of your life to see how things are connected?  Are you able to be graceful with yourself when you realize that some choices cause harm?

    We are in a season when all you hear in the media is the discord among political groups as they grapple with what is best...and best for what or whom is often debatable.  And in the heat of that, it's easy to start casting your own stones, stating things in strong ways, making choices for or against people and ideas. Regardless of the outcome of any one election or the vote on any one bill, we all end up having to live with one another, with the consequences of our choices in the process, with the words that we have said and the choices we have made along the way.  How then do we guard our hearts and our tongues so that we are able to reach out to one another as beloved children of God - no matter what happens next?

    In our Hebrew scripture for this week, King David asks his military leader Joab to deal gently with Absalom.  David's family story is better than any daytime soap opera written. Absalom has fled his father's wrath after killing his brother Amnon, a murder committed in rage that Amnon raped Absalom's sister Tamar. But David later forgave Absalom and brought him back to the kingdom but would not speak to him.  (Did you follow all of that?  It's complicated.  And sort of feels like the fall out from David's poor life choices earlier...and each bad choice by each family member keeps digging a deeper pit of despair for the whole clan).  Joab has had a bitter falling out with Absalom in previous chapters.  Absalom encounters Joab and his armor bearers in the forest, and as he is trying to flee, Absalom is "hung" when he is caught up on a branch.  Joab orders one of his men to kill Absalom, and the man refuses, having heard King David order Joab to deal gently with Absalom.  Joab takes matters into his own hands and uses three spears to pierce Absalom's heart.  WOW.  It's like a bad shoot-em-up mafia flick.  Here is a whole group of people who have gotten so wrapped up in personal passion and power that they cannot even begin to untangle the knot back to the first offense!  And it is the downfall of an entire Kingdom in many, many ways. 

    Paul's letter to the church at Ephesus includes advice for living in harmony together.  Juxtaposed against the chaotic saga of David's clan, it feels like a reminder of what is good and true and right.  Deal gently, speak the truth, do not go to bed on your Anger but work it out.  But it's hard.  It's hard to get caught up in the emotion of whatever is going on to remember the big picture.  It's hard in politics, it's hard in church leadership, it's hard in our families.  How often are we able to stop as the emotion starts to take over, to take that breath and remember that those we are dealing with are precious in God's sight (regardless of how we think of them in that moment).

    Jesus, in John's gospel, is offering himself as the very bread of life.  Compared to Manna, he has something to offer that nourishes beyond bodily need.  Jesus is invoking God's covenant, that one made with Israel, and extending it to all who will follow.  Not just the Jew.  Not just the gentile.  Not excluding the sinner or the tax collector or the Roman.  It's as if Jesus is reminding them that they can get wrapped up in their differences, or they can remember that all shall be taught by God.

    Sometimes we think that the choices we make are life and death choices.  But surrounding every choice is a web of relationships and beings affected.  Is the choice the thing? Or the surrounding relationships?  In a season of polarized debate, hateful language, absolutes, are we willing to sacrifice our common humanity to be "right?"

    God,
    may the words of our hearts
    and the meditations of our hearts
    together
    be holy and acceptable
    to You,
    for you are
    our Rock and
    our Redeemer.
    Amen.

    © laura & matt norvell 2012 www.settingourstones.org - We 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.

    8.04.2012

    Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 12), Year B

    2 Samuel 11:26 - 12:13a and Psalm 51:1-12
    Ephesians 4:1-16
    John 6:24-35

    We pile up degrees and titles and certifications and experiences and as a result often think quite highly of ourselves. But sometimes all of the accolades and accomplishments blind us. We get praised and rewarded for knowing and doing, and sometimes we are blind to what is present. We get caught up in the confidence that we know how things work and lose the ability to see things in a new or different way.

     Sometimes we need some help seeing what is in front of us. David needed help seeing what was in front of him. He had just used his kingly power to have the husband of his pregnant mistress killed....and did't see anything wrong with it. It took Nathan the prophet shining a light on the situation from a different direction for David to comprehend what he had done. He thought he understood the order of things [the king can do whatever he wants], but he needed to be reminded that his power had limits and he had responsibility to those above and below him.

    Paul is another classic example of someone who needed help seeing what was in front of him. In this particular passage from Ephesians we see him working to help the followers of Jesus in Ephesus understand who Jesus is and how their lives are different as a result. It was all available to them, but those folks needed someone to help them see it.

    And in the passage from John we see Jesus helping people see what is in front of them. The disciples asked, "What must we do to perform the works of God?" and Jesus responded, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him who he has sent." Jesus is showing them that they already have all they need right in front of them, they just need to believe and trust it.

     God,
    help me to let go
    of the things that,
    while I think make me
    wise and
    wonderful and
    valuable,
    in fact blind me
    and hold me down,
    keeping me from You
    and Your Way.
    Amen.

     © laura & matt norvell 2012 www.settingourstones.org - We 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.