Reading Ramblings – June 14, 2020

Date: Second Sunday after Pentecost – June 14, 2020 – COVID-19

Texts: Exodus 19:2-8; Psalm 100; Romans 5:6-15; Matthew 9:35-10:15

Context: Ordinary Time. Is there anything ordinary about this time? After months of isolation and quarantine and paranoia of other people and contagion, and now as cities are thrown into turmoil with violence protesting violence, ordinary seems the one thing these times are not. And yet here we are. And no less un-ordinary was the gathering of God’s people in the wilderness of Sinai, or the change in our condition of sinfulness because of the Incarnate life, death, resurrection, ascension and promised return of the Son of God. And no less un-ordinary was Jesus preparing his disciples for mission work, in what might be one of the least likable pep talks in all of history. Is any time truly ordinary? Perhaps the most ordinary thing in our lives is the least ordinary of all – the abiding, persistent, insistent presence of our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier.

Exodus 19:2-8 – Having freed his people from slavery and genocide in Egypt, God gathers them around Mt. Sinai to prepare them for the formal introductions and offer that will follow. God offers a special relationship to this people, a relationship He promised first to Abraham hundreds of years earlier. Though they have already demonstrated a propensity for ungratefulness and criticism towards this God who saved them, they immediately agree they will accept God’s proposal, even before hearing the terms of how it will play out. They agree to the blessings of God, but will find that those blessings take concrete form in how the lives of his people look. God pours out his grace first so that his people might receive the Law for what it truly began as – a blessing rather than a curse. Only by trusting God’s grace and goodness towards us can we ever hope to develop a love for his Law in our lives when it restrains our sinful impulses.

Psalm 100 – In the midst of riots and racial tensions and contagion fears, how easy it is to forget to give God praise! All things are in God’s hands and run their allotted courses towards his ultimate end – the blessing of his people to his glory. How little we often resemble sheep, in our refusal to follow and to trust our God regardless of what our situation looks like in the moment. How quick we are to second-guess, or to impose our creaturely wisdom over the divine omniscience of the Creator of the Universe! In all times and all situations we are called to give praise to God, even when such praise rings strange and counter-intuitive on our tongues. All that we have comes from God. All that we are comes from God. All we are promised to be comes from God. It is our duty and privilege to proclaim these truths – as well as the truth of God’s great love for us in Jesus Christ – to all generations that they might give him thanks and praise as well.

Romans 5:6-15 – Here is indeed ordinary time, the ordinary sinfulness to which we are not only resigned, we think it natural and normal. Ordinary. But it is anything but. This malaise which runs through our bodies and minds and spirits is decidedly unnatural, completely out of the ordinary to how we were made to be. And were it not for the unwavering love of our heavenly Father, it would be this ordinary sinfulness that would carry us not just to our graves but to eternal separation from the holy righteousness of God. But this is not what the Creator would have. We cannot make ourselves acceptable to God – or even presentable. Yet when we were the blackest and most sinful, in those momenst whose shame haunts us still or our minds have managed to repress and suppress completely, in those moments Christ died for us. Substituted his holiness and obedience and perfection for our dispicable sin. He alone is the reason for our hope, for the promise of forgiveness and with forgiveness salvation and with salvation eternal life. The sin of one man, Adam, through all of creation out of balance. The obedience of one man, Jesus the Christ, has made possible the restoration of balance to all who believe.

Matthew 9:35-10:15 – The next few weeks center on Chapter 10 and Jesus sending out his disciples. But the divisions seem arbitrary and unhelpful, so I’m making some modifications. We’re reading beyond the assigned section that would end at 10:8 and continuing to just short of the optional extended reading assignment of 10:20. Today’s selection begins with an emphasis on how great the harvest of people to salvation is, and how few there are to engage in the work of harvesting. It is a situation that fills Jesus with empathy and pity and prompts him to remind his disciples of something we would do well to remember today – to pray for more workers in the fields. We are then introduced to a list of Jesus’ inner circles, the twelve disciples. This parallels Luke’s information in Luke 6:12-16. The one difference between these two lists is that Matthew names Thaddaeus as a disciple and Luke names him as Judas the son of James. This is the same person, but it was not uncommon to have two different names – a Greek one and a Hebrew or Aramaic one.

Jesus instructs his disciples on their mission trip. They are to evangelize their own people, the Jews, not outsiders. They are to proclaim the kingdom of heaven is at hand, language that should stir people’s interest in repentance as well as receptivity to whatever follows. They are to do the work Jesus himself is doing in terms of battling physical ailments and spiritual foes. And like Jesus they are not to do this for pay. They are to rely on the hospitality of the people they preach and teach to. At a deeper level, (recognized or otherwise) they are relying on God himself to provide what they need. The Holy Spirit will guide them in terms of who to stay with. And lest they presume to be universally welcomed and respected (is such a thing possible for an intinerant preacher?!) Jesus prepares them for how to handle places that do not welcome them. In not welcoming the disciples, there are eternal ramifications, eternal risks of continued unrepentance that could lead to eternal separation from God himself.

The disciples are simply to announce. They are not responsible for the results of their words any more than the sower is responsible for the seed she sows. May we remember this in our conversations each day. We are God the Father’s creation, redeemed by God the Son and accompanied by God the Holy Spirit. We needn’t apologize for this or hide this. We share who we are and the good news of God in Jesus Christ both as an objective historical reality with subjective possibilities for every person, as well as our own subjective experiences of how God has touched our lives. We do not control what the other person hears or how they receive it, but trust in all things to the one who not only created the seed we sow He actually is the seed we sow!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s