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Thursday, November 29, 2012
Lectionary Scriptures: Jeremiah 33:14-16, Psalm 25:1-10, I Thessalonians 3:9-13, Luke 21:25-36

We Americans are not good at waiting—except perhaps standing outside a store awaiting Black Friday creep. As we begin a new church year, we enter Advent, a time of waiting. Even the church has at times jumped the gun on Christmas. We know the story. We know that Christmas is coming, that, in fact, it already came some 2000 years ago. So, along with the Christmas carols which crept up on us in some public places even before Thanksgiving, some want to begin singing them in worship.

The strength of the liturgical calendar is that it helps us relive the moods of the original flow of the events in biblical history. In the Bible, Christmas is the culmination of a long period of longing, or perhaps just the beginning of the culmination. I’m not suggesting, as is the habit of some, that all texts in the Bible anticipate and/or interpret Jesus, but many of them do express a deep longing. People are waiting, living in anticipation. Maybe we too need to do some of that waiting and anticipating. Advent is a time for that to happen, a time to slow down and consider the moods of waiting and what it is we are waiting for.

Like the stereotypical children in a car we may be tempted to cry out, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” It’s a cry that has been taken as an image of impatience, yet there’s a sense in which it was also the cry of those biblical ancestors who longed for something new to break forth. Waiting is not simply a passive activity. Some speak of “eagerly awaiting” something. Waiting is an attitude of anticipation. Something is coming. During Advent, let’s meditate on what it is we await and the feelings we experience while waiting.

Perhaps the lectionary readings for the first Sunday in Advent can give us some guidance.

At the core of much of the longing in the Hebrew scriptures is hope for a day of peace and justice and righteousness. In the reading from Jeremiah, there is the promise of a king who “shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” (Jeremiah 33:15) Sometimes the king was seen as a Messiah, one anointed by God to fulfill this hope, whether viewed as a king from the line of David (as mentioned in the first part of vs. 15) or “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” (Luke 21:27). Even after the birth and life and death of Jesus, there was (and is) still anticipation of better times, a fulfillment, to come—a “second coming.” We are still awaiting the full reign of peace and justice and righteousness. Perhaps Advent can be a time to refocus our commitment to that vision.

Psalm 25 can be understood in a similar context, but it has a different twist. It assumes enemies who are going to put the nation to shame. (Psalm 25:2) Like so many of us, it expresses a longing for a new start. “Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions.” (vs. 7) They are “waiting.” “Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame.” (vs. 3) They need guidance as they look ahead. “Lead me in your truth . . . for you I wait all day long.” (vs. 5) God “leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.” (vs. 9) Perhaps Advent can be a time to ponder new starts and find a sense of direction.

I was particularly struck by the reading from I Thessalonians. Paul writes in anticipation of a time of reunion with those who are dear to him. “Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face . . . may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you.” (I Thessalonians 3:10-11)

Christmas for many is a time when family gathers. Margie’s and my children are scattered all over the world—Germany, Hawaii, West Virginia, Chicago, Maine. For a variety of reasons we are rarely able to share holidays, but most families can relate to waiting in the airport eagerly awaiting the arrival of friends or family so we can throw our arms around them in loving welcome. If we’re traveling to see them, we may be so eager to arrive that we cry out, “Are we there yet?”

In Paul’s case he is concerned about the spiritual and relational well-being of the Thessalonians to whom he is writing. He speaks of “whatever is lacking in your faith.” (vs. 10) He prays that the Lord may “make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you.” (vs. 12) He wants them to have strong hearts. (vs. 13) It is an amazingly intimate glimpse of the tenderness and concern in Paul’s heart. However we express it, like Paul, our love for family and friends means that we long for the best for them, for meaning and purpose in their lives. We parents are sometimes prone to think we know what is best for them. That’s not always true and we couldn’t impose it on them no matter how hard we tried. Advent, however, can be a time when we consider all the people who stir the intimate inner workings of our hearts.

One of the Hebrew words frequently translated “wait,” including in Psalm 25:3 &5, carries the connotation of coming together—“to bind together.” It also is seen as something we do “together.” It is a word of togetherness.

The Gospel lesson begins with one of those dramatic pictures of apocalyptic expectation. “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and one the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the seas and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” (Luke 21:25-26) We all know how such words are used, and I would say abused, by some. Maybe a tsunami or a storm ripping up the New Jersey coast and New York City shoreline are signs of judgment or of the end. Surely God is using them to get our attention.

I don’t think the biblical writers necessarily intended us to give such interpretations. Jesus himself seemed to see these as things that would happen in his generation (vs. 32), but he follows these images up with words in which I believe he is calling us to “pay attention.” At the heart of waiting is paying attention to what’s going on around us. Jesus speaks of the leaves on trees that signal the changing of the seasons. (vss. 29-31) What do the things that are happening around us mean?—not just the natural disasters but the neglect of the poor and the moments when our lives are touched with goodness. What meaning do we see in every moment of every day?

My outlook on life has been deeply influenced by Existentialism. As I’ve gotten older, it has become more apparent that the place where meaning is found is in this day and this moment. “Seize the day.” Margie and I have been going through what has seemed like a terribly long wait for surgery which will address her back pain. Again and again through that time we have been rediscovering that we simply have to live one day at a time and receive the gifts that are in that day.

In Luke, Jesus’ focus is less on the signs than upon our attitude while “waiting.” “Be on your guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life . . . Be alert at all times . . .” (vss. 34-35) There’s much to be considered, maybe even debated, in those verses, especially before I have edited them down. In the light of my focus on the question, “Are we there yet?”, maybe they should remind us that in our eagerness to get wherever we are going, we may miss the possibilities that are in this moment, in this place, as we travel along in the pilgrimage that is our life. All of us experience the things that are fleeting in life (see vss. 32, 33, & 35), but Jesus reminds us that all that is true, all that has meaning, “will not pass away.” (vs. 33) As we travel through Advent, waiting, sometimes crying out “Are we there yet,” rushing to get to the joyous Christmas carols, let’s not forget to pay attention to every moment along the way, looking for signs and meanings and a divine presence walking with us.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Lectionary Scriptures: II Samuel 23:1-7 AND Psalm 132:1-18 OR Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 AND Psalm 93:1-5, Revelation 1:4b-8, John 18:33-37

The Christian liturgical year ends with a new heaven and a new earth and Christ sitting at the right hand of God reigning forever and ever—whatever that means! That, of course, is just one way of trying to express in human language what is inexpressible.

The final Sunday of the liturgical year (this coming Sunday) used to be called Christ the King Sunday, but those who are deeply committed to democracy have trouble relating to kings. Kairos-Milwaukie United Church of Christ is a church where issues of justice are very important. Kings are often seen as the epitome of a system of oppression—as if deep differences of wealth and power did not exist also in “democracies.” Furthermore, where there are “kings” in the modern world they are often nothing more than figureheads in nations where everyday affairs are decided in some sort of more or less democratic fashion.

It’s no wonder that some have tried to soften the emphasis upon kingship and call this Sunday “Reign of Christ Sunday,”—in my mind largely a distinction without a difference. Its still about authority, a ruling person or principle. The question put before us is what rules or reigns in the cosmos, in the affairs of this world, in our lives?

Sometimes my attempts to make sense out of things drives me to definitions—which can also drive me to distraction, or insanity. Here are some definitions I found, offered here without comment, each perhaps shedding a little light on possible foci for Reign of Christ Sunday.

"Reign” is defined as “control or government.”
“Rule” may mean “a code of practice and discipline for a religious community,” “to exercise ultimate power over (a people or nation),” “exert a powerful and restricting influence on,” “pronounce authoritatively and legally to be the case.”

A “king” is defined as “the male ruler of an independent state, especially one who inherits the position by birth,” or “the best or most important person or thing in a sphere or group.”

A “kingdom” is “a country, state, or territory ruled by a king or queen,” “a realm associated with a particular person or thing,” or “the spiritual reign or authority of God.”

The word “reign” reminded my of “rein.” I wondered if there was any connection between the words. There’s not, that I could find—but I still found “rein” to be an illuminating word. A rein is “a long, narrow strap attached at one end to a horse's bit, used in pairs to guide or check a horse.” Often used in the plural, it may also mean “the power to direct and control.” As a verb it means, among other things, to “restrain.” I find it interesting that imagery related to the control of horses is occasionally applied to human beings. In Psalm 32:8-9, God says, “I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you.” James 3:3 says, “If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies.” (Actually, he’s talking about the power of the tongue, but perhaps the verse can be applied to wider understandings of governance.)

Such definitions give us lots to chew on as we consider the readings for Reign of Christ Sunday, all of which are part of a focus on kingship. The first two are about the end of the reign of David, the highest image of a king in Hebrews history, yet even his reign was not without its troubles and shortcomings. II Samuel offers one version of “the last words of David.” (II Samuel 23:1) He thinks highly of his reign. A good king “rules over people justly . . .” (vs. 3) His rule is “like the light of morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land.” (vs. 4) “Is not my house like this with God?” David asks. (vs. 5) Not exactly humble, is he? And all those on the other side, “are entirely consumed in fire on the spot.” (vs. 7) Did David have an enemies list? Power so often has difficulty tolerating any opposition. The reading from Psalm 132 also reflects, not too humbly, on David’s reign as well.

Psalm 93 rises to higher ground, declaring the “the Lord is king.” We could get into the whole history of Israel’s desire for a king and God’s trying to remind them who their king really was. Why are we human beings so ready to hand authority over to human leaders whether they be kings, presidents, senators and representatives, family patriarchs, or others too numerous to name?

Jesus, in the Gospel lesson, tries to point us to authority that functions on a different dimension. He is asked by Pilate if he is “King of the Jews.” (John 18:33) Although he says, “You say that I am a king” (vs. 37), it is only after he has said, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” (vs. 36) His answer leaves us with lots of questions and room for speculation and interpretation, but it is clear throughout his teachings that he called us to live in a kingdom which wasn’t based on traditional political authority. It was among others things within. He called us to consider what rules at the very center of our being.

There are two more readings this week, both from apocalyptic readings about the consummation of all history. Without getting into the details of various interpretations (many of which jump way beyond the original context of the writings), we have the picture a divine being who is “given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship shall never be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:14) In Daniel he is “one like a human being,” taken by many Christians to mean Jesus. (vs. 13) In the reading from Revelation he is “the ruler of the kings of the earth.” (Revelation 1:4) He has “made us to be a kingdom.” Stated in the form of a benedictory prayer, it says, “to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (vs. 6)

As I tried to get a handle on all this king talk, I thought of a modern colloquialism, often expressed emotionally, which says something or someone “rules.” Rick “rules.” Love “rules.” It’s not a phrase I use and I’m not sure of its meaning or use, so I decided to try to find out about it on the Internet. I got lots of list of rules but no clear discussion that helped me. Finally I found this exchange on Yahoo Answers. Someone notes that “in Ugly Betty, Justin said that Betty rules. What does it mean?” The first answer is, “When someone says ‘You rule’ it's a compliment, like ‘You're awesome’ or ‘You did really well.’ It's a pretty common phrase, perfectly acceptable to use in everyday conversation. It's also interchangeable with ‘You rock.’” Another answer says, “It's an expression of admiration for someone who is an effective leader.”

It probably trivializes the majesty of kingship, and talk about power that keeps the cosmos on course, to lay it alongside the everyday comment, “You rule.” Maybe, however, when concepts are beyond the reach of the most sophisticated of theories, we can understand them in a way that captures the awe and respect we sometimes feel in the presence of even another human being. Perhaps when we are not able to easily connect with the image of “king,” we can consider crying out, “God rules” as a declaration of our awe and admiration for all that a loving God as seen in Jesus and his teaching means to us.
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Lectionary Scriptures:
For Sunday: I Samuel 1:4-20 AND I Samuel 2:1-10 OR Daniel 12:1-3 AND Psalm 16:1-11, Hebrews 10:11-25, Mark 13:1-8
For Thanksgiving Day: Joel 2:21-27, Psalm 126:1-6, I Timothy 2:1-7, Matthew 6:25-33

I’ve including the Thanksgiving Day readings because many congregations may celebrate this Sunday as Thanksgiving Sunday, the Sunday before Thanksgiving Day.

I have been reading Victor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, first published in 1945. The 1992 edition contains Frankl’s reflections on his “Experiences in a Concentration Camp” (with particular emphasis upon psychological responses to those experiences), “Logotherapy in a Nutshell,” and “The Case for a Tragic Optimism.” Logotherapy is an approach to psychology which seeks to understand how and where people find meaning and help them to discover their own meaning and purpose. More than once Frankl quotes the words of Nietzche: “He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How.” Harold Kuchner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, in the foreword to the 1992 edition, summarizes Frankl’s key insight in this way: “The greatest task for any person is to find meaning in his or her life.”  Along with Frankl’s emphasis upon hope and meaning, he discovered in the concentration camps a thankfulness for what he calls “the most trivial of comforts.”

In considering this week’s readings, let’s reflect on where we find meaning and purpose and hope and what elicits a thankful spirit within us.

In the story of Hannah from I Samuel, the meaning of life revolves around children and their possible impact upon the future. In a society where children were a measure of your eternal worth, Hannah is unable to provide her husband, Elkanah, with such a heritage. Hannah is distraught. Her life seems to have no meaning and she carries on in a way that makes Eli, the priest, think she’s drunk. (vss. 10-16) Finally he grants her petition for a child and Samuel is born. (vss. 17-20) The reading from the second chapter of Samuel is much like Mary’s song in the New Testament, the exultation of a mother who connects her son with a time of peace and justice. Sometimes we have such high hopes for our children! They will arise and take this messy world and be part of the building of something new and beautiful. We find in such births and visions hope and meaning.

Psalm 16 and the reading from Hebrews seem to find meaning in forgiveness and mercy and closeness to/intimacy with God. “I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices . . . You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy . . .” (Psalm 16:8-9 & 11) Hebrews, chapter 10, continues the emphasis upon Jesus as our high priest, “for by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” (vs. 14 and the verses that precede it) This week’s reading specifically lifts up forgiveness. The Holy Spirit says, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” (vs. 17) Such forgiveness means we can live with “confidence,” approaching God “with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean . . . Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering.” (vss. 19-23) We find meaning and are able to move ahead in hope because the burden of being judged for every move we make has been removed.

We are into the season of the church year when the emphasis is upon the consummation of history, on a time when God will bring fruition to all things. Writings full of symbolism and omens, called apocalypses, speak of battles between good and evil. “Apocalypse” is a word from the Greek which means to uncover or reveal. Daniel and Revelation are two such writings. This week’s readings include a short section from Daniel, including the words: “There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered . . . Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life . . .” (Daniel 12:1-2)

Many have used such apocalyptic writings to predict and give dates to a precise sequence of specific events—often with a great deal of disagreement about the events. Someone, after reading the book of Revelation, said simply, “I’ve read the last chapter. God wins!” Most people of faith believe that good is ultimately stronger than evil. In the face of much evidence to the contrary, we believe that good ultimately prevails. It is in such beliefs, interpreted in esoteric detail or broadly held as a view of how life works, that are a source of hope and meaning for many.

The Gospel reading for this Sunday stands in the apocalyptic tradition, the 13th chapter of Mark often called “The Little Apocalypse.” The reading ends with images of “wars and rumors of wars,” of nation rising against nation, of earthquakes and famines, and this is just the beginning. (Mark 13:7-8) This week I just want to call attention to the prediction of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. (Mark 13:2) The destruction of the temple would have threatened meaning for many. It verged on taking God away from them. How many of us pin our hopes and meanings to buildings and places?

In talking about hopes and meanings we may also look at the things for which we give thanks. The lectionary readings for Thanksgiving Day show us some of the things for which people often give thanks.

The reading from the book of Joel speaks of a time of abundance which will come upon the people. “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you.” (Joel 2:26, and the preceding verses) Psalm 126 also anticipates and rejoices in restored fortunes. (See vss. 1 & 4) “The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced . . . Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.” (vss. 3 & 6)

The reading from I Timothy speaks less of the content of our thanksfulness as it does about making “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings . . . for everyone.” (I Timothy 2:1) It’s interesting that included among “everyone” are “kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.” (vs. 2) Much to unpack in that if we were to dig into the historical context and the place of the Christians of that day in the society around them.

So much of our thanksgiving focuses upon our abundance and physical blessing, the people around us, the political leaders we favor, etc. Are we able to lift up our leaders in prayer (and not prayers of condemnation) after the recent election?

The Gospel reading for Thanksgiving Day reminds us that so much of what we worry about, and for which we give thanks, is transitory. Jesus, in Matthew, chapter 5 (part of what we call “The Sermon on the Mount”), tells us not to worry about such things. “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing.” (vs. 25) If we were to go beyond the defined reading, we would come to verse 34: “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own.” In our giving thanks, perhaps we need to focus on this day, this moment, receiving it and living into it in a spirit of thanksgiving. In such moments, perhaps we will discover that we have all we need, an abundance of the spirit we almost missed noticing.

Hope and meaning can sometimes seem elusive, so difficult to find and define. May our attention in this season of Thanksgiving turn to things of deep meaning and lasting significance.
Wednesday, November 07, 2012
Lectionary Scriptures: Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17 AND Psalm 127:1-5 OR I Kings 17:8-16 AND Psalm 146:1-10, Hebrews 9:24-28, Mark 12:38-44

There are lot of widows in the Bible—over 100 references to “widow” or “widows.” They are often linked with “orphans.” In biblical times, they received no inheritance or social security check. When a widow’s husband died, she could be as abandoned as a child who was orphaned.

Widows, specific and general, are mentioned in several of this week’s lectionary readings. They are people to be cared for. As in the case in modern society when there are those who need care, debates go on about two possibilities: 1. It is a responsibility to be undertaken by the family. 2. The church or society need to organize some way to provide services to such people. Both forms of service and care existed in biblical times as they do today.

Pastor Rick, in his benediction at the end of worship each Sunday morning, usually tells us to “Go out and take care of one another.” Looking at scriptures about widows and orphans can call us to think about and figure out how to care for one another. Even today, widows may find themselves impoverished, deprived of companionship, not feeling like they fit into the social networks that used to sustain them—but we also can look at the wider framework of need and response in and through family and social reality, including the church. Do widows and others with social needs find inclusion and support in the church, or do they feel alienated and isolated? Both can happen.

The lectionary continues this week with the story of Naomi, and her Moabite daughter-in-law, Ruth. After they become widows, Naomi decides to return to her homeland, Judah. Ruth, in a dramatic display of loyalty, insists on accompanying her. One common avenue to security for widows was to remarry. Jewish Law even provided a framework for that. The deceased husband’s brother was to take the widow as his wife. Ruth, a foreigner, is not part of that framework, but Naomi says to her, “My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you.” (Ruth 3:1) Naomi identifies a relative who may rise to the occasion, Boaz. (vs. 2) Ruth is sent to lie with him on the threshing floor. “Uncover his feet and lie down;” Naomi says to Ruth, “feet” being a euphemism for genitals. “He will tell you what to do.” (vss. 3-4)

Boaz and Ruth bear a child who is seen as a great blessing to Naomi. “He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age.” (vs. 15) Naomi more or less adopts him into her Jewish culture and family, becoming “his nurse.” (vs. 16)

This story is included in the Bible, I suspect, mainly because this child, Obed, is the grandfather of David, which also makes him an ancestor of Jesus. Somebody looked at David’s birth certificate and found that the line had been contaminated by a foreigner. The story tells us that even foreigners can have faith and be included. It is one of several Old Testament stories that tell us that God’s love is bigger than tribal lines, that even redemption can come from the womb of a foreigner. It also underlines the Old Testament view that blessing comes to us through our children. They are the sign of our immortality.

Psalm 127 certainly picks up that theme. “Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has a quiver full of them.” (Psalm 127:3-4) Although the Psalm is not about widows, it is about the importance of family connections. Family connections, at their best, are a source of sustenance and blessing, bringing us close to God as well as to one another. Not all families realize that potential, but the first verse of the Psalm holds up an ideal: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who built it labor in vain.” I’m also aware that sons were more highly valued than daughters. Although we still often fall short of full equality between the sexes, today most of us see daughters as a blessing equal to that of sons.

The larger picture in this week’s blog is taking care of one another in families and beyond. It can even be one way of looking at why we are here, of what families and churches and social connections have as their purpose. It takes a village. We are here, at least in part, to take care of one another.

The story in I Kings involves another widow, a widow who is called upon out of her limited means, to offer care for one of God’s prophets. Elijah, having been cared for by God through a time of drought, finds that the spring which has sustained him has dried up. (I Kings 17:1-7) God tells him, “Go now to Zarephath . . . and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” (vss. 8-9) Elijah goes and asks the woman, who remains nameless, for bread and water. (vss. 10-11) This widow, who has a son, calls attention to her own poverty. “I have . . . only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go him and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” (vs. 12) Elijah insists on being fed, promising that “the jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.” (vss. 13-14) I’m not sure whether the story is about the promise that God will provide or the seeming miracle of the provisions which don’t run out. If we went a little further in the story, we would find another miracle. The widow’s son apparently dies and Elijah brings him to life again. (vss. 17-23)

There’s yet another miracle I’d like to focus upon. It is that this woman living on the margins of existence is presented as one who has something to give. She is a source of blessing to this one who is called “a man of God.” She trusts what must have seemed like a pie-in-the-sky promise and gave what little she had. She is not unlike the widow praised by Jesus in this week’s Gospel reading. She comes to the temple where Jesus sees her put into the treasury “two small copper coins, which are worth a penny.” (Mark 12:41-42) His comment: “This poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury, for all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (vs. 43-44) Having grown up on the margins of poverty, I have also viewed with wonderment the generosity I have seen among the poor. Here, after having berated the scribes for devouring “widows’ houses,” Jesus sees widows (and others in poverty) not just as those to be “helped” but as people who have something to give, a contribution to make in this process of taking care of one another.

That leaves only a reading from Hebrews and another Psalm. We’ll skip the few verses from Hebrews this week, having in previous weeks explored the theme of Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice. The Psalm is one which speaks of God’s concern for those in need, including the declaration that “he upholds the orphan and widow.” (Psalm 146:9—see also vss. 7-8)

Verse three of this Psalm says, “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help.” As I write, it is election day. Reading this verse anew helped me reassure myself that whichever candidate wins it will not be the end of everything I have valued and held dear. Many of the words that have been slung through the air, by both sides, might have us believe that, but I’ve lived long enough, seen enough candidates and presidents (some of whom I intensely disliked) come and go, to know better.

Still, part of the way I will evaluate the results of this election is how widows and others in need are treated. Both candidates have shown a pattern of personal care for such people, although one leans more toward family and church solutions and the other sees a larger role for government. I admit I’m concerned about how all that gets worked out in policy, but, beyond all the immediacy of such political issues, I have confidence that “the Lord reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 146:10)

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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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