Posts Tagged 'proper 13'

For August 4, 2013: Proper 13, Year C

The Reading            Hosea 11:1-11

In last week’s reading from the beginning of the book of Hosea, God is frustrated to disgust with Israel’s unfaithfulness. At the end of the book, God remains exasperated—but, as the poem that is today’s reading shows, God’s compassion for God’s children exceeds even our capacity to wander.

The Response            Psalm 107:1-9, 43

“Let them give thanks to the Lord for his mercy and the wonders he does for his children.”

The Epistle            Colossians 3:1-11

The Old Testament reading and Psalm today paint vivid pictures of God’s persistent mercy for God’s children. The epistle to the Colossians follows up on this point: if we truly participate in Christ’s death and resurrection, then it is our responsibility to live according to Christ’s example in our treatment of all of God’s children.

The Gospel            Luke 12:13-21

“But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’”

 

Further thoughts

The speaking voice in the book of Hosea sometimes sounds like the voice of the infinitely merciful God we know from the New Testament, but sometimes it sounds terrifyingly like a human father lashing out at a child’s rebelliousness or a human spouse seething that once again the house isn’t tidy and dinner isn’t on the table at 6 p.m. because, after all, the mother of the infant and toddler has nothing else to do. I can’t help wondering if the shaming really is God’s voice, or rather whether it’s a projection of some of our problematic human tendencies to shame others as a way of deflecting attention from our own shame. If Hosea went into his marriage with Gomer convinced that she would stray as predicted, his comportment is likely to reflect that. What if Hosea had argued with God, not necessarily about the command to marry Gomer, but about the need to identify her before the fact as a slut? What if that was a test? And, harking back to the destruction of the world, what if the call to build the Ark came to more than one person, but all the rest blew it off? Or what if Noah had argued for mercy?

For the point of the readings today is not the wrath and the name-calling. Even Hosea, in this reading, shows us God too much in love with God’s people to destroy them. The letter to the Colossians, for its part, calls us to abandon a series of sins all of which have to do with abusing, pulling rank on, and looking down on others: instead, our thank-you for God’s mercy is to extend to others the grace we have received from God. And I think one point of Jesus’ remarks in Luke is that both the person in the crowd and the rich man in the story are too concerned with getting or keeping their own share. Whether the good things of God are material or spiritual, they are intended to be shared as openhandedly as they have been given.

The big question, then is how we can remember, as individuals and as a community, to live into that call.

For Aug. 5, 2012: Proper 13, Year B

The Reading            2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a

In last week’s reading, King David got another man’s wife pregnant, because he could, and then attempted to cover his tracks by arranging for that man to die in battle. There is no such thing as private sin, however. In today’s reading the prophet Nathan, acting for God, tricks David into pronouncing judgment on himself. The penitential Psalm 51 that follows is David’s heartfelt response.

 

Response            Psalm 51:1-13

 

The Epistle            Ephesians 4:1-16

Psalm 51 is David’s reaction to Nathan’s affirmation of his guilt—and our own, as we survey the devastation our behavior causes. The fourth chapter of Ephesians teaches us how to live so as not to do such damage: by bearing with one another in love, by speaking truth in love, and by building up the Body of Christ in love.

 

The Gospel            John 6:24-35

 

Further thoughts

The books of Samuel paint a highly mixed portrait of David. On the one hand, it is David who connives and cheats, who keeps wanting more and who is not above manipulating his friends and fighting for their enemies to get it, whose appetite for power and its perquisites grows the more he gets, and who has the valiant Uriah disposed of, perhaps at least as much because Uriah’s self-control contrasts so tellingly with David’s self-indulgence (and one always wonders how much real choice Bathsheba ever had in all of this). On the other hand, it is David who follows God and God’s gifts to greatness, who dances unselfconsciously before the Ark of the Covenant, who repeatedly protects Saul even when Saul keeps trying to kill him, whose yearning for God pervades the psalms that he really does seem to have composed, and who—when Nathan finally gets his attention—genuinely and contritely accepts that he has offended not just the humans around him but the God whose man he is.

How can one reconcile those two Davids?

One reconciles them, because one must, the same way each of us must reconcile the warring selves within all of us. Earlier chapters of the letter to the Ephesians make it clear that I also am God’s creature, born with the yearning to make good with my gifts—and so is everyone else; bitter experience tells me that I am just as capable as David of abusing my gifts stupidly or even wickedly, sometimes even out of good intentions—and so is everyone else.

Today’s epistle reminds me that all God’s children are born this way, with gifts that surely need to be channeled but that it is a sin against the Spirit to deny. The foundational gift, as today’s epistle notes, is love, by which I understand the ability to see others not through the lens of my own wants and hurts but through the eyes of the God who died for the sake of even the worst of us.


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