Tag Archives: Canticle 10

My ways are not your ways. Gosh!

Seek the Lord while he wills to be found; *
call upon him when he draws near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways *
and the evil ones their thoughts;
And let them turn to the Lord, and he will have compassion, *
and to our God, for he will richly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, *
nor your ways my ways, says the Lord. (BCP 86)

Today, we see in the lessons, canticles, and collects of Morning Prayer three examples of the upside down ways of God.

It was only a question … gosh!

In the OT reading we have the beginning of the story of David and Goliath, which we may remember from childhood as the victory of the small over the great. David with his slingshot (and his faith) triumphs over the strength and weapons of the giant Philistine.

David, the youngest brother, is only supposed to be bringing food to his older brothers, but he hears around the camp that the king will reward whoever kills Goliath.

His eldest brother Eliab heard him talking to the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David. He said, “Why have you come down? With whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart; for you have come down just to see the battle.” David said, “What have I done now? It was only a question.” (1 Samuel 17:28-29)

But there’s also a subversive political strain to the story, since the shepherd boy David is being groomed by God to supplant the king of Israel. The anointing of God is being taken away from Saul and giving to David instead.

God shows no partiality

We see that same subversive streak in the lesson from the Acts of the Apostles.

Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ– he is Lord of all. … While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (Acts 10:34-36; 44-47)

The anointing of the Holy Spirit, which the disciples had assumed was an additional gift to the Chosen People — the Jews who believed in Jesus as Lord — is now falling on anyone who hears the good news.

Even Gentiles are receiving God’s spirit. What next?

You stretched out your arms of love

What’s next for the disciples is the conviction that in Jesus, God was acting to save all people.

Paul’s letters crisscross the Mediterranean world, reminding new Christians that grace, not law, is their guide and salvation …

The Gospel writers begin to compile their chronicles of Jesus’ life and teaching, four accounts that together draw out just how upside down his message was, for those with ears to hear.

John, writing later than the others, even recounts Jesus saying “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them in also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16).

The religious rules and the political order both turn upside down in the face of God’s grace and truth, seen most clearly in Jesus’ last gift of love.

A Prayer for Mission

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen. (BCP 101)

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When he draws near

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Seek the Lord while he wills to be found;
call upon him when he draws near. (BCP 86)

Little does Saul realize (1 Samuel 9) that while hunting for his father’s lost sheep he will find instead the crown of the king of Israel. The Lord wills to be found, and through his servant Samuel God’s word “will prosper in that for which I sent it.” Saul will be made king, and he will pave the way for David’s reign.

Likewise, Stephen, “full of grace and power” (Acts 6:8), seizes the opportunity at his trial before the Council to preach about God’s salvation history being fulfilled in Jesus. God’s word will prosper through Stephen, we will learn in the next couple of days, because his stoning makes an impression on another young man named Saul.

The Lord wills to find Saul, and eventually he will heed the words of Isaiah we read in Canticle 10:

Let the wicked forsake their ways,
and the evil ones their thoughts;
And let them turn to the Lord, and he will have compassion,
and to our God, for he will richly pardon. (BCP 86)

The renamed Saul (our apostle Paul), becomes a fresh witness to the saving power of God in Christ Jesus, the “word that goes forth from [God’s] mouth.”

The Lord wills to be found in your life, too. Keep an eye out for his presence, and call upon him when he draws near to you.

They gave me vinegar to drink

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They gave me gall to eat;
and when I was thirsty they gave me vinegar to drink. (Ps. 69:23)

Sometimes I wonder at the Church’s obsession for getting the society around us to do what we want. We spend a lot of energy trying to get laws passed that guarantee our rights, that grant us certain privileges, that impose our ideals on others.

We don’t get that impulse from Jesus, whose words and actions led to his arrest, scourging, and crucifixion.

We don’t get it from Paul (much), since he positively glories in the hardships he has endured for the sake of the Gospel. “I will most gladly spend and be spent for you,” he writes in his second letter to the church in Corinth (2 Cor. 12:15).

In Canticle 10, appointed for this morning, we sing about God’s word, whom we would name Jesus:

So is my word which goes forth from my mouth;
it will not return to me empty.
But it will accomplish that which I have purposed,
and prosper in that for which I sent it. (BCP 87)

God’s purposes are accomplished precisely in the gall and vinegar, precisely in Jesus’ faithfulness to the way of the cross.

Why do we think it will be different for us? Why do we think in terms of legislating behavior instead of demonstrating faithfulness?

A Collect for Fridays

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 99)

 

It’s still beautiful

Local Hero

The film Local Hero is the story of a Texas oilman sent to Scotland to buy a fishing village so his company can put up a refinery. As the villagers dream about becoming millionaires, the oilman begins to fall in love with the peace and quiet.

The oilman’s Scottish partner, Danny, is also falling in love. Marina is a mysterious figure, a lovely marine biologist with an enigmatic manner.

After the ceilidh celebrating the conclusion of the deal, Danny and Marina are out on the beach looking at the Northern Lights.

Danny: Holy mackerel! What’s happening?
Marina: That’s just the Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis. High-energy protons spilling over into our atmosphere. They get through the magnetic shield where it’s weak, at the poles.
Danny: It’s still beautiful, I don’t care what you call it. How often does this happen?
Marina: Any old time, although it’s best when the sun’s active. That gets the solar wind up and that’s where the protons come from.
Danny: You say the darnedest things, Marina.

We have another Danny in today’s Daily Office readings, and he’s the one saying to God, “You say the darnedest things.”

I heard but could not understand, so I said, “My lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?” He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are to remain secret and sealed until the time of the end. Many shall be purified, cleansed, and refined, but the wicked shall continue to act wickedly. None of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand.” (Daniel 12:8-10)

From our Easter perspective we know the meaning behind the signs. As Julian of Norwich says of Christ, “Know it well; love was his meaning.”

It’s easy to get tangled up and confused in speculations about dates and times and the mechanics of how God acts in history. It’s easy to lose sight of the meaning — God’s love for us, reaching down and remembering us “in our low estate” (Psalm 136:23).

As our first Danny says, “It’s still beautiful, I don’t care what you call it.”