for link go to http://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=280
readings Jeremiah 8:18-9:1 Psalm 79:1-9 1 Timothy 2:1-7 Luke 16:1-13
I believe we should interpret Scripture with Scripture. However, I also think that the church has done that work for centuries (about twenty of them) and so I can be safe in listening to God's voice speaking there. In light of that it seems that one of the best 'starting places' is 1 Timothy 2:3-4 "God our Savior,
who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."
Does God, first and foremost, want to save people, all people, each one and every one? Did He send Jesus into the world to save because of that desire? I find when I answer that question affirmatively, with enthusiasm, that my mind and heart seem better. When I think God is looking for a reason to damn me and every one else, I get sad and worried. If we are all just kindling for Hell it is hard to get motivated to do much of anything. And it is hard to have faith in a God, love and trust a God, Who is often portrayed as an angry (justifiably, we are sinners) Judge Who intends to wipe us all out as our just desserts.
Jeremiah portrays judgment, but with a twist. The emotional
response of Jeremiah to the plight of God’s people can only be described as a
dirge. What did the prophet “see” to break his heart?
Perhaps he had an image of a sweaty farmer and his wife toiling in the sun with a child playing
nearby. Suddenly, a lone rider appears, spear in hand. Just as suddenly, the
rider is joined by others, dozens at a time. In that moment it all comes clear.
The farmer will no longer worry about crops or family life. The riders descend,
horses hooves trampling the man and toddler. The demise of
man, woman and child is a personal tragedy which is to be played out tens of thousands of other times. Total destruction:
A normal day swept away by a moment of sheer horror and death. Jeremiah’s
reaction would be similar to our own response on Sept 11: weeping and sadness. Yet
Jeremiah does not cry alone. He speaks in the voice of God; the God who weeps,
who feels pain and sadness, the God whose judgment breaks not only His people but
His own heart.
God's judgment breaks God's heart; is this not the meaning of the cross? Like a parent who has rescued an errant child for the last time, God withdraws and allows the punishment to happen. A parent dies inside as they see their beloved child ruin a life with bad choice after bad choice. So it is with God.
The world hangs
in the balance in most times. Human sin and evil produce immeasurable misery
and suffering. At this moment around the globe there are any number of people
planning or plotting widespread terror and destruction. Some of it sanctioned
as "legitimate war." Others the creation of smaller groups with diverse
motivation. In every case, it will mean loss and suffering for fellow humans.
This is why we
are urged “to make supplications,
prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings for king and all who are in high
places.” Prayer is one of our “super powers.” In Jesus and powered by the Holy
Spirit we are gifted with the burden and the blessing of standing before God in
the name of the world. Jesus is the great
high priests and we share in His ministry. Since our baptism and in our faith we
are set apart for this holy work. Our power is not
military might or financial holdings, it is not a skilled tongue or friends in
high places. Our power is a bent knee, a humble heart and a fervent prayer. It is opening ourselves 'to and for' that salvation which God so desperately wants to pour out on everyone, everywhere, in and through Jesus Christ.
Whatever else the
convoluted parable of Jesus tells us, it teaches that we children of the light—Kingdom
folks—need to be more clever about how we use our power. We need to
understand every temporary resource (Mammon) as a foretaste of the perfect
treasure of God. We need to not amass our wealth for personal benefit, a
fruitless enterprise for finite, mortal, passing-away creatures. Rather, Jesus
commends the use of our wealth to make friends on earth, and more importantly,
though subtly, friends in heaven.
Proper use of our
resources is a choice. Our wealth in
prayer can be used in intercession, thanks and praise. This is a clever (wise) use of
wealth. Our material gifts and blessings can be used in the same way; an
offering to God to benefit the needs of others. Doom and
destruction causes the prophet to cry, it seems this reflects the heart break
of God. Today we have a chance to wipe away those Divine tears by our fidelity with
all our blessings.
[I hope it is not blasphemy to suggest that we humans can wipe away the tears of God. I do not underestimate the perfection of God. However, as His small children, perhaps, as we sit on His lap and He loves us beyond what words can express and He 'suffers' with/for us, perhaps, like a small child our little hands can reach up and do just that....]