I love the change of seasons. There’s something hopeful as the air changes and nature takes on a different hue. In the northern hemisphere we are heading toward fall. Officially, the calendar indicates fall and the leaves have been showing their agreement for a couple of weeks. It’s my favorite season as the air becomes lighter, crisper and the days shorten, granting passive permission to go home earlier to rest and relax. Today, I can see the hope of autumn when I look out my window and see the hints of yellows and oranges amidst the green leaves. As the cooler winds blow, my spirits are uplifted.
The texts this week are not quite so simple in the ways they point toward hope. They present an odd mix of violence, feasting, longing, and challenge.
The strange cluster of verses in the reading from Esther are a bit gruesome though they do end with days of feasting and celebration for God’s people. The hope of freedom and renewal is evident and preaching this text could be a fruitful venture for one up to the challenge.
Psalm 124 credits God, and God alone, for the salvation of Israel which sounds good but makes me decidedly uncomfortable. After all, who really wants God to be active in war? What might this Psalm have to say in the face of the refugee crisis?
Numbers also goes in an odd direction. The rabble of Israel complaining about manna and how much better they had it in Egypt. God’s response? Why to allow the elders to come into God’s presence and prophesy after Moses complains about the complaining people. While it’s clear that Moses is grateful to share the burden of close acquaintance with God, I’m not sure how much of a comfort this proved to be for the rest of the rabble. It does make me wonder who’s prophesying today and how is that burden (um, gift) is shared?
On the other hand, the selection from Psalm 19 is pure gold. What congregation would not benefit from being reminded how sweet the Word of God really is? There’s something comforting, possibly hopeful, in these words for sure. Makes me wonder what a modern psalmist might write. “Let the words of my mouth…”
Now we move to James. I confess that I wonder about James and what he was up to. I’m certainly a fan of prayer and frequently recommend it. I’m just not sure the outcome is as guaranteed as James makes it sound. Perhaps you, though, are moved by this passage and can find the message of hope that the surety of prayer can bring (which may be safer than preaching on the Gospel text this week).
With the Mark text, we are back to the gruesome. I know (or at least I hope I know) that Jesus wasn’t really advocating for self-mutilation but it still sounds awful. It does end on a good note, however. Don’t lose your capacity to actively care for and be at peace with one another. There’re places to go with this saltiness image, if the threat of hellfire didn’t come right before it…
So we have death and feasting, God on the side of the victors, rabble craving the bounty they had while in captivity, the sweetness of the word of God, the power of prayer, and a need for salt to be salty. What do you see in these texts? What fresh word is coming to on the winds of the changing seasons? Please share your thoughts and insights!