Reading Ramblings – May 3, 2020

Reading Ramblings

Date: Fourth Sunday in Easter ~ May 3, 2020 ~ COVID-19

Texts: Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10

Context: Last week’s readings stressed the passive nature of our role in salvation. God literally does everything, including providing us with faith itself. Our utter dependence on God to do everything for us in the realm of salvation should naturally translate into an equally trusting and accepting role in allowing our Lord to guide our lives in the ways He knows are best for us. Yet we have remarkably difficult times with this! It is so easy to insist that we know best, our choices are best, our ways are best even when they directly contradict the Word and wisdom of the God who created and redeemed us! Even, in fact, when we know full well that what we want is not best at all. It’s simply what we want. God’s graciousness to the waywardness of his people is remarkable, to put it mildly!

Acts 2:42-47 – It isn’t as though these people had no homes. No lives, no jobs, no routines. But all of those things are recast when the good news of the resurrected Son of God is received. When life itself is on the line, how attentive people become to the nature of their salvation. Keep six feet apart? No problem. Stay at home? No problem. We’ve witnessed how dramatically lives change when confronted simply with fear. What then, to be confronted with hope? Not with the threat of sickness or death but rather the promise of healing and life? Astounded by the goodness of God in Jesus Christ, the early believers voluntarily changed their lives radically so that this Savior was the center of their life. Not simply intellectually or spiritually but practically as well. They discovered a whole new family, or a whole new depth of family. They reprioritized their time and assets to keep Jesus at the center of their lives in faith. An encouragement and reminder to all of us not simply in times of pandemic but in all times, that our lives should reflect our must fundamental truths and beliefs!

Psalm 23 – The quintessential summary and description of the Christian life. What does God not provide to us? Food? Water? Health and protection? Guidance at all levels of life? Companionship more intimate than any human relationship? His abiding presence not simply to our moment of death but into death and beyond it with us? Salvation? Peace? Eternal joy? Freedom from all our enemies – including sin, Satan, and death itself? It isn’t as though God has demonstrated himself to be trustworthy! Yet how we often balk at the imagery of sheep! How often we’d rather be a lion or a wolf, fending for ourselves on our own terms! Thanks be to God who is the true Good Shepherd, guiding us back to the fold even after our times of rebellion!

1 Peter 2:19-25 – Trust and obedience in God take concrete forms. We are not free, at a certain level, to innovate, trusting in our estimations rather than in his Word. Peter has begun spelling out what this looks like precisely because it doesn’t always look and feel the way we think it ought. Shouldn’t the God who created us and saved us be chiefly concerned with our happiness? Shouldn’t fairness be one of his great concerns in our lives? Shouldn’t we, above all people on earth, expect our lives to glow with God’s blessings and glory but in ways defined and dictated by a sinful and broken world? Certainly much of American Christianity in the past few decades has decided this – preaching wealth and health and prosperity if we just name it and claim it. Assuring us God wants the same things for us that we want for ourselves, and on our terms as well! Perhaps these preachers and their followers should spend more time on 1 Peter than on Jeremiah 29:11. Not that Jeremiah is wrong, but rather we need to hear his words in light of Peter’s, and visa versa. As a reminder and example we have no less than our Lord and Savior himself, who offered himself up to the worst of the world’s treatment rather than expecting to revel and bask in glory and honor and comfort. The certainty of God’s love for us is in no way diminished by the sinfulness within us or around us, and Christians would do well to remember our defeated enemy continues to flail and thrash futiley against his coming judgment and condemnation. Certainly life will be hard at times for the people of God. Hard even to death itself. But these are minor things compared to the love of God in Jesus Christ that endures for eternity!

John 10:1-10 – Countless voices and powers seek access to us every day. Our Alexas and Siris listen not simply when we call their names but all the time, seeking to learn more and more about us so they can better optimize what they offer to us for sale. Politicians promise us the moon for our vote and our tax dollars. Many Christians see their churches as constantly demandingn money for various programs or projects, sometimes without bothering to see whether the people themselves want or need them. The companies we work for seek the balance, paying us as little as possible in return for as much as possible, saving the lion’s share of profit for upper management or stockholders. Everywhere we turn, somebody is trying to get something from us, for purposes that are oftentimes only incidentally of value to us. We are easy prey.

Contrast this with the Good Shepherd. The one who comes not to demand but to offer. Not to take but to sacrifice. Who needs nothing from us because we have nothing to offer, but is willing to give all He has so that we might have life in him, and have it abundantly! We know this voice, a voice so different than any other voice in our life. A voice of infinite patience and calmness, infinite love and kindness. This is the one and only Good Shepherd. And we are most assuredly his sheep. What comfort that should bring us! Do we feel lost? He searches for us and will find us! Do we feel weak and weary? He will sustain us and carry us when we have no strength left to go on! Are we afraid of the predators around us or the illnesses and aging of our bodies? His rod and staff are our comfort, having defeated even death itself so we no longer have anything to fear!

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