As a church professional, I get to hear some pretty terrible theology sometimes, from people who assume that I believe as they do. Can you relate? One of those things that I often hear is that the “Old Testament God” is vengeful while the “New Testament God” is forgiving. Passages like this week’s from Jeremiah make me want to cry out, “No! God’s grace can be found throughout the Scriptures!” The prophet tells us that God wants to begin with a clean slate for everyone, so that our parents’ sins are not visited upon us for generations, and we all have the chance to engage in a faithful relationship with God.
Similarly, the Gospel reading today makes me want to respond to those same theologians, “No! Even Jesus teaches us that sometimes God’s grace seems distant, and we have to keep asking for it over and over again until we finally realize its presence.” The parable in this week’s Gospel can be disturbing, depending on which role you see as God’s. Is the divine in the judge, who is powerful but unfaithful? Or is God with the widow who kept pressing the judge until he granted her justice? What does it mean for our faith if even God has to beg for justice? Or what might it mean if God had the power to grant justice but just wants us to ask, over and over again?
On second thought, it looks like I don’t need to cry out about the usefulness of all Scripture – the lesson from 2 Timothy does it for me! What message does this passage send to you? Does Paul encourage your community, along with Timothy, to retain the understanding of Scripture that they gained in childhood, being unwilling to challenge what they have always known? Can you hear the liberation in Paul’s encouragement to explore the lesser-known parts of Scripture to shape your faith?
As ever, the Revised Common Lectionary offers a wealth of preaching options. Which message will be most meaningful to your community this week? Perhaps you can focus on the familiar words of Psalm 121. What help does God offer your community? Or maybe you’re drawn by the all-night wrestling match between Jacob and God. Have you ever engaged in a similar time of wrestling with God? If you go with the Genesis passage, don’t forget about the model of a biblical family that we’re given at the start of the passage: one man with multiple wives and partners, and many children. How does Jacob’s family play in to this story?
Whatever direction you’re taking, welcome to the conversation! All kinds of days are coming, as Jeremiah reminds us, and I’m here to remind you that one of those days is Sunday. 🙂 Blessings on your preaching and preparation for worship!
Katya Ouchakof is returning home from a whirlwind week that included her first visit to a theme park. It turns out that the lines at theme parks can be an excellent place to practice the spiritual discipline of patience!
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