Amos 8:1-12 and Psalm 52 •
Genesis 18:1-10a and Psalm 15 •
Colossians 1:15-28 •
In the world of Facebook (a social networking tool on the internet where people post information about their lives and keep track of other people they may or may not know), "It's Complicated" is a relationship status. You know, like Married, Single, In An Open Relationship (seriously), and It's Complicated.
There is something to be said for "It's Complicated." It says a lot. It doesn't say too much. It leaves room for speculation and interpretation. Surely each of us has had a relationship best described as "It's Complicated."
And this week, this is our response to the lectionary. It's Complicated - both from a base level reading and integration of the various stories and from the things it says about our relationship with God, with Christ, with the Divine, with one another. It's Complicated. Back in May we talked about God being complicated, but this week, we're feeling it much bigger than that. IT'S Complicated.
This is a week when it pays to remember that we bring our own life experience with us into the reading of any biblical text. Our life, our experience, our witness of God at work in the world will affect the way we read the stories, the way we understand these stories, the way we apply these stories to our current circumstance. For us this week, these readings drew heavily on our experiences with current events - the oil spill in the Gulf, the state of political gridlock our country seems to be finding itself in, the economy, the environment. They also drew heavily on our frantic need to please those around us. And it drew on our sense of being unable to crack some elusive faith code that makes knowing and understanding all things somehow easy.
And running with that chaotic, It's Complicated sense of things, we chose to read both of the Hebrew scriptures for this week. Sometimes we are gluttons. And God spoke to us in both of them. It's Complicated. Right?
The prophet Amos can't see anything but a basket of summer fruit. Isn't that a spectacular sight? Imagine some mangoes and some apricots and some pomegranates and some almonds (we're trying to think Mediterranean). It's a lovely vision. And the Lord responds with a pretty harsh response. He doesn't tell Amos he's wrong, but he does reinterpret what it might symbolize. The Lord is finished with Israel, frustrated by the greed and the lack of care for creation. That basket of summer fruit represents the peak, and it's all downhill from there. Fall and winter, kaput. The Lord describes darkness at noon (uncanny to read during an eclipse week), feasts turned into mourning, sackcloth on every body. Reading this through our lens of experience and understanding today, it's not hard to see some parallels. We are a nation that has been perhaps "fat, dumb and happy." We've been drawing on our summer fruit, plucking it off the trees. And now, we are facing some difficult times. Did God make it so? We don't necessarily believe that - we tend to believe that we as a society have created our own chaos. How does that make us feel? About ourselves? About God? It's Complicated.
In the reading from Genesis, Abraham gathers with three strangers beneath the oaks of Mamre. He hustles to be sure that Sarah is on deck to provide them with a feast. He quickly slaughters the best calf. He quickly (quickly?) processes some fresh milk into curds for their enjoyment. None of this sounds as quick or as easy as a trip to Costco. He's putting some time and resource into providing hospitality for these strangers. Why? Does he think he knows them? Does he expect something from them in return? Well...if he wasn't expecting it, he sure got it. They inquire about Sarah, and then announce that when they return, she will have had a son. This is one of those pivotal stories - Abraham's line is going to continue (legitimately). And it provides the necessary plot twists for "the rest of the story." Now, we don't know that all of Abraham's hospitality was directly related, but we can assume there is a reason the story is told the way that it is. There is some connection between his keen attention to the stranger and the continuation of his blood line. What is it? It's Complicated.
And then, we have the familiar Luke story of Mary and Martha. Mary is sitting and Jesus's feet, deeply engrossed in all that he has to say. Martha was "distracted by many tasks" and comes to Jesus complaining about Mary the slacker. Jesus scolds Martha, telling her she is distracted by the wrong things. He lifts up Mary's choice as the right one. So setting the story from Genesis beside the story from Luke, we're left with the question of how we set priorities. How do we know what to focus our efforts upon. How do we know to choose "the better part?" It's Complicated.
And as if things were not Complicated enough, we get a part of our friend Paul's letter to the followers of Jesus in Colosae that opens with, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers--all things have been created through him and for him." Paul is certainly not cowed by topics that might be Complicated. We see this throughout his writings and especially here. He is jumping off in to an attempt to explain the cosmic and eternal and universal and divine relationship of Jesus the Christ to God the Father. Even today, our best minds and our best explainers end up (after saying a lot on what the Trinity is or might be) saying that while we might have some ideas of how this relationship works, we still have to take it on faith that it does exist and it does work. Paul even says he is attempting to explain "a mystery" that has been hidden to all the prior generations. That Relationship Is Complicated.
This is a week of wrestling with these themes. It seems important to Do the Right Thing at any point in time. Because in some ways, if we don't, we are subject to the vision the Lord shared with Amos. But it seems that sometimes choosing the right thing is slippery. It depends on the circumstances, and how we read them and interpret them and understand them. And that isn't a very accurate science, is it? It's Complicated.
God, for the places in this life
where things are Truly Complicated,
we ask for wisdom
For the places in this life
remind us that
Someone is in charge
© matt & laura norvell 2010 www.settingourstones.org
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