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Proverbs 1:20-33 and Psalm 19 or Wisdom 7:26-8:1 OR Isaiah 50:4-9a and Psalm 116:1-9; James 3:1-12; Mark 8:27-38
COLLECTFor the Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary time ....
Lord God, we walk in your presence always. Every breath we take is ordered in your divine plan. But how conscious are we of you in our daily lives though? We confess, Lord, that we are not aware enough. We neglect to find out what it is you want from us and we hide from your voice. We are more comfortable taking the easy way. Like Peter we don't want to believe that there is a Cross. We want a comfortable faith with warm fuzzies. We want to be cushioned and cocooned and cotton-wrapped in a warm safe environment. And you keep calling us out into that noisy stinking world to lose ourselves. Help us Lord. We are weak and blind and hard of hearing, enchained in prisons of our own making. Deliver us and heal us. Open our eyes to see and our hearts to embrace your vision for the world. This we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
THOUGHTSIt is nearly two in the morning. The doglets and I have had our walk and they've had their bark. The waning moon is almost midway overhead. Cloud fantasies are pushing northeast over the Rockies towards Jasper. It is a warmish night, I needn't have worn two sweaters with my windbreaker. While I walk I pray and I reflect on my days.
There is much on my mind. I, like a lot of folk, watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. It was heart-wrenching to see the two Koreas, hands joined, marching in under a single flag. My brother's Godfather was a POW in Korea. He did not live to see this day. I'm sure he would have rejoiced to see the two Koreas together again. And I remember well the United Church Women making Peace ribbons for former London Conference UCW President Muriel Coultes to take with her to Korea to show our solidarity with our Korean sisters and their families. In fact UCW groups across Canada made Peace ribbons.
There are two current sayings or proverbs that I'm rather fond of at the moment. The first is, 'Time is God's way of preventing everything from happening at once.' I like it because it hints at very deep quantum physics realities and because it also hints at very deep mysteries within the heart of God. The other is, 'Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans.' Both of these sayings have some light to shed on our lectionary passages for this week. They are both worth some time in contemplation.
Wisdom calls out to us. From the midst of our busy days she calls. In the street and in the squares, Wisdom's voice can be heard. The nightly newscast and the daily papers carry her voice. She can be heard in our council chambers and at our committee meetings, in the checkout line at the grocery store and at the dentist's office, out on the street corners and in the town squares. If we listen for Wisdom, we can learn to recognize her voice. Out of the centre of our lives we can learn to exercise the discretion that comes from Wisdom's teaching in our life's experiences.
Wisdom longs to teach us. We often reject the voice of Wisdom, following the devices and desires of our own hearts - to our hurt. We see this best as adults raising our children, especially in the teen years. The collective voice of Wisdom through the years is rejected by the young as old-fashioned and uncool. We seek to prevent our children from hurting themselves but.... But, indeed! Some have to learn the hard way. Has God found you having to learn the hard way?
There are two themes knitting this psalm together: the glory of God's creation and the glory of God's law. Both reflect the majesty and omnipotence of God. 'The heavens are telling....' I look up every night here in the Columbia Valley. Some nights I see the clouds heavy overhead or the mist undulating its sinuous ethereal body with satisfaction, like a contented cat, slowly spreading into the whole valley. Other nights the stars sparkle, the moon rises and the mountaintops, crowned with snow, stretch into the night. I stop to listen. I can distinguish the sounds of the mill, the heavy trucks coming into town, the whistle of the train in the canyon, the footsteps of my little dogs. And then, under it all, pulsing, the great heartbeat of this world sustained by the breath of God. 'There is no speech, there are no words....' None that we recognize as human speech anyway.
I think we forget sometimes, we Christians, that it is Law and Grace, not the Law OR Grace. Jesus said he came to fulfil (to perfect) the Law. The Law does not cancel Grace, an unmerited and magnanimous gift from God and Grace does not destroy the Law. The Law is seen as beautiful and true, right and full of enlightenment, enduring forever and reviving the soul. Our attitude towards the Law is very revealing. If we dismiss it, we miss the magnitude of God's grace. If we elevate it beyond everything else we idolize it. We need to balance our perceptions by allowing God's law its due place in our lives.
This Wisdom pericope is an excerpt from a section dealing with the nature of Wisdom (Wisdom 7:22b-8:1 See also: John 1:1-14; Hebrews 1:1-4). Perhaps it should be labelled 'the nature of Divine Wisdom.' Certainly the description here is one that says that Wisdom is a 'reflection of eternal light,' a 'spotless mirror of the working of God,' an 'image of his goodness.' Using the scriptures of John and Hebrews (above) one can see an identification of Wisdom with Christ. Most certainly this identification would be useful in contemplation.
I particularly like the line, 'in every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets.' Friends of God. What a wonderful nickname to hold! Am I a friend of God, a holy soul, a prophet? How do I know? It is said that Wisdom, 'orders all things well.' How do I order my life?
This particular passage is known as the Third Servant Song. There are four servant songs. They almost should be 'read' together.
The First song appears in Isaiah 42:1-9 ('I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations.' NRSV). The Second is Isaiah 49:1-7 ('It is too light a thing that you should be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, to restore the survivors of Israel: I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation shall reach to the end of the earth.' NRSV). The Third Song, our reading for this week, is Isaiah 50:4-9 ('The Lord helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near.' NRSV) The Fourth is Isaiah 52:13-53:12 ('But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. NRSV').For our purposes, this week's reading of the Third Song, fits in nicely with the Mark passage. Jesus, beginning to plainly reveal his mission to his desciples, 'sets [his] face like flint' to go to his destination in Jerusalem, knowing that his vindication 'is near.'
In a nutshell, the passage says: God gives (me) wisdom, the wisdom to know how to speak with encouragement, to sustain the weary. When God wakens me, I listen, I co-operate with God's plans for me. When I face insults I can do so without striking back because God helps me. There is almost a tone of yearning to go speak, go teach, go encourage.
That Jesus is identified with the Servant comes, in retrospect, as no surprise. But think how hard it would have been to see a trimphant Messiah in these passages, especially if you were looking for a political, economic, or social leader. No wonder the disciples and the leaders and the people had difficulty. Would I have been any different? What gives us insight today to figure out what really matters? How do we listen to the voices out there?
This psalm is part of the Egyptian Hallel which included psalms 113-118. They were liturgical songs sung at all the great feasts of the year. Psalm 113-114 were sung before the Passover meal began and 115-118 were sung after the meal was over. The singular pronoun "I" is thought to mean the nation, the corporate 'person' of Israel. 'The Lord has heard me... I love him. God saved me when I called out.'
Some commentators believe that the references to death and Hades are allusions to the death and hell of bondage and captivity and exile. If we read the psalm with those allusions in mind it makes for a very powerful statement about what God does for those with faith.
The opening verse sends shudders down my spine. As it should. Those who take it upon themselves to speak the word hold an awesome responsibility.
copyright - Charlene E. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2000 - 2006
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