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Monday, August 03, 2009
Lectionary Scriptures: 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33 or 1 Kings 19:4-8, Psalm 130:1-8 or Psalm 34:1-8, Ephesians 4:25 - 5:2, John 6:35, 41-51 Some of this week’s lectionary readings continue to give attention to miraculous feedings. I’m not sure I’m up to much more of that. In this week’s portion we have the notion of a prophet being without honor in his own country. “How could Jesus possibly have ‘come down from heaven.’? He’s the son of Joseph, after all.” (John 6:41-42) Between the lines, or maybe not so hidden, one can see Jesus trying to redirect their attention from a heaven in the skies to what is right in front of them. “Here I am right in the midst of you. That’s where you need to look for heaven. Eternal life is not just forever in another realm; it’s right now, here, all around you.” (John 6:45-51) In the story from 1 Kings, Elijah is out sitting alone under a tree feeling sorry for himself because Jezebel is after him—to kill him. Well, I guess that might be reason to complain a little. (1 Kings 19:1-4) An angel comes and gives him food and drink, which sustains him for forty days and forty nights, a popular number in the Bible when one is wandering around feeling like one is in the wilderness. Elijah’s basic complaint? “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts” and “I alone am left . . .” (1 Kings 19:10) “I’ve been so much more faithful than all the others. They all have run away, turned from you, or been killed. Oh, poor me. All alone.” God speaks to him in a quiet voice after a display of wind, earthquake, and fire, and says, “You are not alone, Elijah. There are seven thousand faithful still there, ready to work alongside you. You don’t have to do it all by yourself.” (vss. 11-18) We have a tendency to forget that there are those around us who are willing to offer support, to help, to be partners with us in the tasks and trials we face. There’s a lot of need for support in this week’s scriptures. What parent cannot identify with David when he loses his beloved son, Absalom? We have not all lost children, but we know how much we worry about them. Maybe we have no children, but we have lost other loved ones, or we worry about them. David’s experience is described in this way in 2 Samuel 18:33. “The king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said, ‘O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!’” To be ready to die so that another will not have to is the epitome of love. Have we ever felt like we wished it had been us instead of someone else? That’s the way life is finally lived and finally makes sense. We all live and die for one another. We can’t go it alone. We can’t escape our responsibilities and connections—both the benefits and the costs. We are part of a cast of thousands who walk through this life together, living and dying—and it is the being in it together that makes it all worthwhile. One can move from Elijah to Ephesians, which offers instruction for living together in mutually supportive ways, ways in which we will be helpful to one another and we will all get through, maybe even grow stronger. Don’t lie to one another. It’s okay to get angry for a bit, but don’t bear a grudge. Do your fair share, and work together so that you have something to give to the needy. Speak only in ways that build up. It’s all there; go read it. Perhaps it is summed up in Ephesians 4:31-32: “Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” That’s the kind of community we are called to be, and when we are that kind of community we truly are not alone. We’re not perfect and we never will be, but sharing the load together beats any alternative I know. In Ephesians 5:1-2, we find the center of strength from which that togetherness is enabled. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” It is by looking to God and Jesus that we find what it is that draws us together. That love is described as something “fragrant.” How sweet it is when brothers and sisters come together in mutual support and encouragement!

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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