Reading Ramblings – February 3, 2019

Reading Ramblings

Date: Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, February 3, 2019

Texts: Jeremiah 1:4-10; Psalm 71:1-6; 1 Corinthians 12:31b-13:13; Luke 4:31-44

Context: The season of Ordinary Time can seem a bit random. Not governed by an overriding event like the other major seasons of the liturgical year, it offers an opportunity to delve into what theologians sometimes refer to as the full counsel of God. The Bible speaks about a stunning array of topics and issues. Sometimes more than we’d prefer, sometimes fewer than we’d hope for. Sometimes in nearly mind-numbing depth, and other times in a cursory fashion that leaves us clamoring for more. Many preachers use this time for a variety of sermon series’ and other means of providing structure. I still prefer to utilize the assigned texts from the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) – LCMS edition, but I look for ways to preach on a variety of different topics and ideas. My preference is to look for a theme common to all the readings, but sometimes I prefer to focus on just one. In light of recent legislation in

Jeremiah 1:4-10 – Powerful verses in this day and age, that declare that the Lord is the author of life, and life begins well before birth. If God can know us before we are even conceived, how much more important is it that we should recognize that life – once conceived -as a gift of God and deserving of full acknowledgment and treatment the same as any other human being? In a culture that seeks to redefine life to fit convenience, we can never forget that life is not our creation. The Creator of the Universe works in and through human beings to bring new life, but remains the sole author of all such life. We are bound to acknowledge his sovereignty and power in this respect, and to treat those lives as precious regardless of age.

Psalm 71:1-6 – Most people would agree that we should save others from wicked, unjust, and cruel people. What matters is how we identify perpetrators as well as victims. Ultimately God is the one who saves, and his salvation is not merely temporary or for the span of a lifetime. He alone is able to save eternally, and He alone is able to save even from the grave, even from the worst depredations we perpetrate on one another. When we act to save the innocent and the helpless, we do so guided by His wisdom, and trusting ultimately that He will do what we cannot, and that in Him, there is hope not only for the least remembered and overlooked victim of evil, but hope even for those who perpetrated the offense. For this God is indeed worthy of praise!

1 Corinthians 12:31b-13:13 – These verses are popular at weddings. They are full of hope and beauty, capturing the best we can aspire to in our love for one another. But ultimately these verses are not good news about what we extend to each other, but rather condemning verses. Who loves like this? Who can love so perfectly and completely and totally? God alone can. While these verses should serve to inspire, they should also serve to humble. They should also serve as warnings against our pride and arrogance, against assuming that we are justified because we have fulfilled them perfectly while others have not. Love is the necessary basis for all of our aspirations and actions, but love not as arbitrarily defined by us, but as defined by God. God alone as the source and embodiment of love can define how love should properly express itself. All other gifts and particularly spiritual gifts are granted and exercised within the God-defined realm and motivation of love. Anytime we seek to use a gift of God’s for a purpose other than love, we stand condemned and in need of repentance. Anytime we seek to justify our cruelty or unfeeling attitudes towards others in spiritual or Biblical language we are condemned and called to repentance. Love is what will remain when we are brought into the presence of God. First and foremost his perfect love for us, described so beautifully in these verses, and then secondarily and in response, our love for him, which will be perfected and restored to that love of which only Adam, Eve, and Jesus have been capable of in all of human history. How magnificent it will be in that day to love so completely and purely!

Luke 4:31-44 – If we consider the sick or demon-oppressed to be in need of rescuing, Jesus proves that He possesses the authority to do so. While we are prone to think of illnesses in terms of bacteria and viruses, and struggle with the idea of demon-possession, Jesus demonstrates the the intricacies of these matters are no match simply for the Word through whom all things were created (John 1). These are some of the afflictions we are promised release from in the day of our Lord’s return and the resurrection of the dead to new life. Note that the crowds marvel not at the existence of demons, but at Jesus’ authority over them. Note also the distinction Luke (traditionally thought to be a physician) makes between demon possession and illness. The fact that people were readily able to accept the existence of demons doesn’t mean they couldn’t recognize illness for what it was.

Life is a precious gift from God. While sin has brought sickness and all manner of other suffering into our world, God remains the source of healing, both temporally and eternally. It is always appropriate to pray for God for healing while trusting in his good and gracious will in all situations and circumstances.

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