[Time for a little refresher about how the lectionary works...and
then some commentary about when it works beyond the plan. During
"Ordinary Time" the lectionary provides two reading options for the
Hebrew scripture. The "first readings" begin with Genesis in Year A and
follow through in sort of chronological order through the major
prophets in Year C. The "second readings" are intended to be
thematically tied to the selected Gospel lesson for that week.]
All that said, there is a funny resonance this week among ALL of
the readings from where we sit. (Admittedly, we sit in a fairly geeky
spot relative to this stuff.) The readings all touch on what happens
because of our human nature - what happens when we are tempted by power
or greed or lust, when we just can't do what society deems "the right
thing." And what happens between us and God because of our humanness.
Come on. You know you do it. You can't quite avoid passing
latest news (gossip) about a member of your community. Your generous
heart falters at the sight of yet another pan-handler at the
intersection. The "right" way of getting something done doesn't seem to
be working and you take matters into your own hands, perhaps greasing a
palm here and there, perhaps even causing someone some discomfort or
extra work. Let's face it, all of us reading this have social power we
are able to use for evil over others--if you are reading this on a
computer and using internet access to receive it, you have more than a
lot of the rest of the world. We are human - with bumps and warts and
But what happens when we recognize our humanness...when we give up
trying to be perfect and recognize that God loves us through it all.
Do we live out loud? Do we respond to the world differently? We (Matt
and Laura) know that in our brokenness, we've discovered a greater
ability to love and be loved, by God and the world.
The reading from 1 Kings provides some important history about the
Land that God gave the Israelites. King Ahab observed that Naboth, a
Jezreelite had some desirable land adjoining his own. He made some
overtures to Naboth inquiring about purchasing the land. Naboth
refuses. This is the Land that the LORD has granted his people. Now
enters one of the more colorful characters - Jezebel assures King Ahab
that she can get the land for him. So she basically conspires to have
Naboth killed and then sends Ahab to claim the property. God sends
Elijah to Ahab with a message - you took what isn't yours and you will
suffer as a result. There are some funny human things going on in this
story. What was Jezebel's motivation? She seemed to just want to do
something nice for her man at some level. And did Ahab question how she
accomplished the deed? Was he ok with her forging his signature on
official documents? Did Jezebel have guilt? Notice what happens to
Ahab...God says, "I will bring disaster on you; I will consume you, and
will cut off from
Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel". [On a literary note, does it
make you read Moby Dick in a different way knowing what you know about
the Captain's namesake?]
The psalm paired with this reading is probably intended to focus on
how God makes things right, sets the evil-doer straight. But it is
interesting to us that while it is a lament, there is also a petition -
make straight my path. Yes, God. I can't navigate alone. Make my path
a straight one, please.
The "second reading" is from Samuel - a story that we visited
earlier in the year. David has had Uriah killed so that he might take
Bathsheba legitimately as his wife. Hmm. Not unlike Jezebel, David's
passion consumed him and he just did what he needed to do to get what he
wanted. And here's the amazing human moment: Nathan tells a story
about a rich traveler who steals a poor man's lamb because he does not
want to use one of his own for a feast. David is aghast...but Nathan's
word is simple. David, this is about you. Didn't you see it? Do you
know what you just did? You just killed a man so that you could lay
with his wife! And you have a whole bevvy of other women at your
disposal. David knows he has sinned. And there will be a price
to pay. However, notice that David's price is not quite as steep as
Ahab's. The child of David and Bathsheba is killed....David is not 'cut
off' from the rest of his offspring. Why do you think that is true?
The psalmist is giving thanks for God's presence and forgiveness.
LIke the earlier psalm, there is an understanding the reliance on God is
Now in Paul's letter to the Galatian church, he is exploring
are justified. He's writing about the difference between the then
predominant Jewish implementation of the Law - you were right with God
when you followed the Law - and the teachings of Jesus. Jesus taught
that the letter of the law was less important than loving God and
neighbor and acting out of that love at all times. It's easy to take the
leap in the lectionary readings from Hebrew scripture to Gospels and
Epistles and embrace a critique of the way things were, but in general,
we believe there is more nuance than that in the contrast between these
readings. Paul was shaped by the prophet Elijah and Nathan, by stories
of Jezebel and David. He knew he had his own flaws and he knew that his
connection to God through Jesus was what would save him.
Finally, in Luke's gospel we read about a woman who bathes Jesus'
feet with her tears and her hair and then anoints them with valuable
ointment. It is an act of bold hospitality and devotion under the nose
of the Pharisee who had invited Jesus. The Pharisee is stunned at the
act and asks Jesus why he is ok with this. Jesus spends time teaching
about hospitality and forgiveness. Most striking perhaps is this: "But
to the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little." Hmm. Our ability
to love God and to love others and ourselves somehow relates to our
very own sinfulness and our understanding that we are forgiven and
beloved to God.
Jesus taught something new and radical - that God's
love was there
if we accepted it and when we did, everything could be different.
this self-reflective business is silly.
Why do I have to be aware of
evil I perpetrate
and admit it
before I can be
Can't you just zap me a little
when I get out of line?
with the invisible fence?
They have learned to respect the
I would too.
And that would be so much
If I was just
from going astray
instead of having
I am not to be trusted
left on my own.
matter now I try,
I sometimes find myself
on the other side
God forgive me
when I follow
the other voices.
I plug my ears
to avoid hearing