Day 36—From today’s reading from Paul’s first letter the Corinthians:
For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
I always find the contrast of “human wisdom” and God’s “foolishness,” wherever I find it in the scriptural narrative, a time to pay attention. I really appreciate God’s “foolishness!” The unexpectedness of the story of Jesus is the necessary antidote to “human wisdom.” Our “human wisdom” takes us down paths so frequently contrary to the grace, love, mercy, and justice of God. It is clear, at least to me, our “human wisdom” deceives us and sends us on snipe hunts, inspired by ersatz certainty and filled with self confident hubris.
During this Holy Week, we must find the courage to see beyond our own limited “human wisdom” and embrace the foolishness of God, foolishness that radically transforms each of us and all of God’s creation.
Lectionary for the Day
Day 35—Isaiah 42.1-9
Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his teaching.
On this Monday of Holy Week, there is before us this description of God’s chosen one (messiah) in first of the Suffering Servant Songs in Isaiah (Isaiah 42:1–9; Isaiah 49:1–13; Isaiah 50:4–11; and Isaiah 52:13—53:12). At the same time powerful and humble, the character of this Suffering Servant in Isaiah is a challenge for all with messianic hope. This Suffering Servant messiah is not a powerful savior appearing on the horizon with a mighty army ready to defeat all who would stand in the way of God’s purpose. Rather, this is a messiah who, in suffering, brings forth the Kingdom of God. In a time more interested in intransigent power and immutable authority, the depiction of this Suffering Servant in Isaiah seems out of place, oddly incomprehensible. Yet, as we wait this Holy Week for the mystery of God’s revelation in Jesus to be completed in the resurrection, it is this Suffering Servant image of the messianic revelation in which we must locate ourselves. Either we embrace the call to be the Body of Christ, the church/the Suffering Servant,, relentlessly pursuing God’s Justice and mercy on earth by the means described in the Servant Songs of Isaiah, or we pursue some idol the deceives and distracts us from the holy ways of God. This was not easy in the time of Isaiah, it was not easy in the time of Jesus, and it is not easy in our time. Still, this is the calling of God to the Body of Christ—the Church. It is the calling of God to you and to me.
Lectionary for the Day
Day 34—Today is the feast day of St. Joseph, the “surrogate” father of Jesus. I wonder how Joseph parented? I wonder if Jesus, as a small child, spent hours in the shop with Joseph chiseling and hammering? I wonder if Joseph reminded Jesus of the primary rule of a carpenter—measure twice, cut once? I wonder when Joseph allowed Jesus to build a birdhouse on his own? I wonder if he swelled with pride when his young “son” exceeded his expectations? I wonder when Joseph began to wonder about his young “son” whose behavior exceeded all reasonable explanation? When they arrived in Jerusalem for Passover when Jesus was 12, I think Joseph must have been wondering,“Who is this kid?”
We enter into relationship with God not because we know, but because we wonder. Like Joseph, at some point we just have to go forward knowing we are in the presence of the unknowable. We go forward in faith. We enter Holy Week in faith, wondering again, “Who is this kid?”
Lectionary for Saturday
Day 28–From Psalm reading: “Let the malice of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous; for you test the mind and heart, O righteous God.”
While the temptation to dualism is strong—which certainly explains our cultural zeal for movies pitching deities of good and evil in cosmic battle, and always the deities that most resemble us (the good guys, of course) winning—the reality of our faith is that there is God and there is brokenness that is the rejection of or turning our backs to God and one another. There is not a deity of evil that seeks to seduce us to
Thanks to HuffingtonPost.com
following a different way; there is only “The Way.” God calls us to righteous living, living in the ways God intends for humanity. We choose to say “yes” or “no” to this calling. If we say “no,” our paths become filled with brokenness, malice, and wickedness. Our “no”draws us away from the holiness of God’s intention in creation and especially from the createdness of our humanity, intended as a reflection of the holiness of God. The Psalmist hopes that the malice and wickedness inspired by “no” will end and that humanity will be more fully able to declare “yes” to God and to one another.
Let Lent be for us a season of rejecting the collective “no” and declaring our most passionate zeal for “yes” to God and all God’s creation. Let us follow “The Way,” and discover the sacredness of everyone. Let us be a light shining on the “beloved community” of God.
Daily Lectionary: http://www.lectionarypage.net/WeekdaysOfLent/SatFourthWeek.html
Last night I went to a play at the LivingRoom Theatre in downtown KCMO. A small theatre with seating on three sides of the stage; like its name, it is like doing a play in your living
room. The setting is uniquely capable of small, challenging plays that depend heavily on characters and dialogue and much less on sets or props. The play “Justice in the Embers,” is the after story of a fire in Kansas City in 1988 that killed six firefighters. The play raises compelling questions about the subsequent “justice” that may or may not have been done on behalf of the firefighters and the public.
Today’s lesson from Ezekiel wonders about the wicked and the righteous. The prophet points out that the wicked person who turns from his or her wicked ways and seeks righteousness in the decisions, choices, and actions of their lives will live. Conversely and disconcertingly, Ezekiel declares that the righteous person who turns from his or her righteous ways and instead decides to do wickedness will die. In the first instance, none of the wickedness or transgressions done in the past will be remembered once they have turned from their wickedness ( metanoia ). Likewise, the righteous cannot bank their righteous behavior from the past and some how offset present iniquity and wickedness. “Who am I now? How do I choose to act now?” are the essential challenges of our existential present in relationship to God.
Jesus in today’s lesson from Matthew does not mince words, “I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” This calling to follow God is a high calling and one that demands a high commitment to righteousness in every moment. Moreover, it offers the opportunity to recognize our transgressions and turn our hearts back to God. God’s promise in Ezekiel and in Jesus is that the sinner who turns back to God will be received with grace, mercy, and love. The righteous one who turns away from God, plunges into that world of gnashing and grinding teeth (until, of course, he or she finds the courage to turn back).
The play, “Justice in the Embers” wants us to consider the nature of righteousness as expressed by the societal systems representing us. However noble our national experiment in democracy and justice may be, however filled our history may be with examples of just action and egalitarian intent, however exceptional we may believe ourselves to be, we must be willing to sometimes turn our hearts from the pathways of error and work to restore justice and dignity in the gate for those injured or harmed by past societal injustice or oppression. Only justice in the present moment, not the historic past (which may be suspect too), is the measure of righteousness of our society. Sometimes we must be willing to turn and repent of the cultural injustices that masquerade as justice.
Day 9 Lectionary: http://www.lectionarypage.net/WeekdaysOfLent/FridayFirstWeek.html