Sometimes the lectionary texts present more challenge than I feel ready to accept. This is one of those weeks. Here in Minnesota we are digging out from the largest snowfall in years. For today that means people are taking things a bit slower and the world is covered in the cleanliness of new-fallen snow. And none of this brings any wisdom to some complex texts.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to touch the Deuteronomy text. There will come a new prophet in Israel; that’s the good news. But it’s followed by some pretty harsh news as well. Anyone who doesn’t heed the words of the new prophet will face the wrath of God. So, too, anyone who speaks in the name of another God or speaks words God did not supply, they will die. There’s lots of metaphoric meaning here, but I am not willing to navigate the treacherous waters of interpretation to get there. Are you?
The Corinthians text provides a little more fodder. In its own way, though, it is just as complicated. We don’t sacrifice to idols anymore. We aren’t really concerned with food in quite the same way they were in the very early days of church. What could we replace food sacrificed to idols with? What do we do that causes others to stumble? Should we change the way we do kinship after worship so that those with diabetes and other food concerns won’t be tempted to eat something they ought not? Or should we be looking beyond food to other things that confuse us along the spiritual journey? What are we tempted to worship? What has power over us? Do we speak openly enough about the gods that tempt us and cause us to stumble?
The Gospel text might not be much help, either. Jesus encounters a man with “an unclean spirit” who seems to recognize Jesus right away. Jesus calls the spirit out and everyone is amazed at the “new teaching.” We need to be careful with this text. We don’t really know what happened. Was it a physical illness? Was it a mental illness? It wasn’t likely demonic possession. But what does it mean these days that Jesus has power over such things? Maybe we should look at the bigger picture for all of these texts…
Do we find life in responding to the Word of God or are we led to spirit-deadening places by the voices of the world?
Do we find life in walking with our friends, neighbors, and siblings as we build up the body of Christ, or are we consumed by self-focused cravings that ignore the needs of others?
Do we find life as we trust in Christ’s loving presence, or do we crouch in fear forgetting that God has power over the evils that plague us?
Where will you go with these troublesome texts this week? Where are you finding hope and encouragement in these trying times? How will you speak to the needs of those who will gather with you for worship? Please share your thoughts and struggles so that we may all journey together as we seek the Wisdom of the Spirit.
Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe is an author and the pastor of Living Table United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, MN. You can find links to her blog, video series, and books at Beachtheology.com.
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