This is my first week to write the Lectionary Leanings and I am really excited. Or at least I was until I looked at the readings for this week!
(You can find this week’s RCL readings here)
I am struggling with the juxtaposition between the Old Testament Readings and the New Testament Readings. The God described in Jeremiah and Exodus does not seem to jive with the God revealed in Christ that we see in the Gospel and 1 Timothy. How are we to reconcile the two?
In Jeremiah God threatens to pour out hot winds, the kind that devour. How can we read those words in light of the terrible wildfires that have recently struck the land in which many of us live? What kind of hot winds of judgment might be threatening your own community? Psalm 14 echoes that people have gone astray, so far that they no longer claim that God actually exists. These people have no respect for the Lord or those the Lord loves. They, like the hot winds, are devours of the poor and oppressed. While it may be tempting to focus on the desolation in these texts it is worth noting that at the beginning of Jeremiah chapter 4 God says “This is what’s in store IF, if you don’t repent and turn from your evil ways” This destiny is not set in stone, but rather a warning of what might be ahead.
In Exodus we again get a picture of God as angered. God goes so far as to tell Moses to do something about the people Moses brought out of Egypt. I tend to read this with the same tone I use to tell my husband that HIS children have been misbehaving. I want no part in the identity of those brats! Moses gently reminds God that God brought them out of Egypt and that God has a lot at stake on their survival. While they have sinned, a complete cutting of ties is not necessary. The promises made in the past must still hold strong. And God’s anger is tempered and God’s mind changed.
The psalmist in Psalm 51 asks for forgiveness, cries out for a cleansing of the soul. The psalmist seems to know that God’s anger has been kindled and that nothing short of full repentance will make any change. But the psalmist cannot make that change alone. Calling out to God, these are requests for God to take action, to participate and even initiate the cleansing and purifying. What might we need cleansing from that is too much for us to handle on our own? In what ways do we need God to take action to help us as a Christian Community to be whole with a new and right spirit?
1 Timothy paints a picture of God’s grace and mercy. While initially seen as a stark contrast to the earlier reading, I think it actually compliments the Old Testament. The words of the Old Testament come from the vantage point of unrepentant, un-confessed, un-turned hearts. Paul in this letter has acknowledged his sinfulness and can see where God has brought him from wrath to mercy. If we were to reflect on our lives without God or without acknowledging God’s presence, how might our vantage point have changed?
The Luke passages from 15 are much loved and preached upon. Again we have the image of God’s mercy being upon God’s people. God cares so much for the lost that God will leave the others and search them out. While this may be comforting to the lost sheep, not doubt it causes fear in the remaining 99 who find themselves without the visible protection the shepherd has offered. I like the thought of a seeking God, one who is determined to find that which has gone astray. But perhaps that is the same God described in the Old Testament readings. Maybe the anger and frustration we see come from a God who is seeking time and time again only to have those for which he seeks run farther and farther away. I know when one of my three littles wonder off they may take my yelling their name or frantic searching to be a sign of anger or potential punishment, when in reality it is my concern for their welfare that causes these reactions.
This is what I am pondering today. What thoughts do you have fellow preachers?
The Reverend Cardelia Howell-Diamond (blogger known as RevHD or cpclergymama) is a Cumberland Presbyterian Minister currently serving a congregation in Alabama. While a part of her heart resides in Texas, the land of her birth, the rest of her lives with her clergyman husband and their three littles ages 11,8, and 4. Cardelia posts sermons at randomrevhd.blogspot.com and has links there to her publications.
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