"These are God’s chosen ones, and grace and mercy belong to them." Wisdom 3:9b
Today is the feast of St. Andrew, the First Chosen.
The reading from Wisdom today (read the whole passage here) is such an encouragement to me. Not because I believe I’m particularly persecuted, but simply because sometimes in the day to day life of a follower of Christ there are trials. One of my great frustrations is constantly defending my faith-inspired actions and commitments. Sometimes I get frustrated because I’d really like to lash out and retaliate against someone who makes me angry, but my faith stops me. It is good to be reminded that God’s grace and mercy are ever with me - and you.
Two videos today, in honor of St. Andrew, patron saint of Scotland.
"The truth is, ‘I have found no one in Israel with such great faith.’ " Lk 8:10
What causes this centurion - a pagan, a foreigner - to believe that Jesus will heal is attendant? What makes him believe so absolutely that Jesus can heal his servant simply by saying the words - no need to see or touch him?
"I continually thank my God for you because of the gift bestowed on you in Christ Jesus…" I Cor. 1:4a
Paul is talking the the church in Corinth. The whole church. Every single person in the community, from the person who volunteers for everything to the child who cries through the service. From the person who grew up at that church, to the person who only comes on Christmas. Imagine - giving thanks, continually, for every person around you simply because Christ Jesus has blessed them. Because they are a Beloved Creation of God. Paul saw Christ Jesus in everyone around him.
"God is coming to rule the world with justice and its people with truth!" Ps. 96:13
This part of the lectionary is always hard. It’s always apocalyptic texts. It can be discouraging and frightening - especially if, like me, you saw news on twitter this morning about North Korea firing on South Korea, and the first text you hear is “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” If we hold these texts literally, we might think the end of the world, in all it’s promised fiery badness, is right around the corner. We have to remember the context. We have to remember that in every age since Jesus, people have taken these texts and said, “Look at this war! Look at this natural disaster! Jesus is coming! The end of the world is here!” But we’re still here.
So what to do when we long for Jesus to come with justice and truth yet are frightened by the world we’re encountering with its war and injustices?
"… the entire population was listening and hanging onto his every word." Lk 19:48
I wonder what it was about Jesus that made people want to listen to him. Was it simply the words he said? Was it the way he said them? Did he have a presence about him? Was it something about his eyes?
"They are and drank, they took husbands and wives, right up to the day Noah entered the ark - and when the flood came, it destroyed them all." Lk 17:26-27
I think that Jesus uses really dramatic imagery hereto make a simple point: life in the Reign of God is not about doing the same-old, same-old day in, day-out. The Reign of God is all around us, right now, and we’ve got to figure out our place in it, figure out what we’re meant to be doing alongside (if not instead of) our daily responsibilities. Perhaps monks have it right: work - cleaning dishes, cooking dinner, sweeping halls, tending gardens - is holy. When they are about such tasks, they pour their soul into it, believing it is a necessary part of the Reign of God. It’s hard for me to believe sometimes when I have my head bent over a spreadsheet or I’m explaining to someone why they need a crown on their tooth, but my work is holy, because it is what God has asked me to do. I am a part of the Reign of God, right here, right now. So are you.
"Jesus replied, ‘Weren’t all ten made whole? Where are the other nine? Was there no one to return and give thanks except this foreigner?" Lk 17:17-18
Ten were healed, only one returned to give thanks. The other nine, though, were doing exactly what Jesus told them to do - they (presumably) were going to show themselves to the priest. Our lesson - even when we are doing EXACTLY what we are supposed to be doing, each day, every day, we still need to take time to praise God.
One of the things I’ve found since I started singing in my church’s ensemble at Saturday Mass is that the Mass settings, from the “Gloria” to the “Lamb of God/Taste and See” we sing, stay in my head, and I find myself singing them all the time!! Walking through the office, the grocery store, even in the shower. It’s the best kind of earworm!
This is my favorite “Gloria” setting, from David Haas' “Mass of Light”. I hope it becomes a pleasant earworm for you, one that helps you praise God all day, everyday!
"If your sisters or brothers do wrong, correct them. If they repent, forgive them. If they sin seven times a day, and seven times a day turn back to you saying, "I’m sorry", forgive them." Lk 17:3-4
Truthfully, I don’t have a problem forgiving people who are sorry. It’s the people who do wrong who don’t say they are sorry that get me all bothered! The people who are insensitive and rude. The people who “don’t get it”. You know who I’m talking about. This is a huge challenge for me spiritually, because I want to show them love, but it’s just hard sometimes. What do you do in these situations?
"This person welcomes sinners and eats with them!" Lk 15:2
Here’s a challenge - welcoming into your life the people you think are sinners. The ones who don’t agree with you ideologically, politically, theologically. The ones who get on your nerves or are downright mean to you. The ones you think, “How can they call themselves a Christian?” Trust God’s grace to bridge the gap.
"So count the cost. You can’t be my disciple if you don’t say goodbye to all of your possessions." Lk 14:33
Is there something you are holding onto that is keeping you from following Jesus wholly and completely? I find that these are the “Yeah, buts”. You know, the things where we LOVE the idea of giving up everything for God, and then we think, “Yeah, but what about….?” I struggle with a lot of these things!
"See what love Abba God has lavished on us in letting us be called God’s children!" 1 Jn 3:1
We are beloved Creations of God, in Communion with the Great Cloud of Witnesses!
A PRAYER FOR ALL SAINTS DAY - from the Gothic Missal
Almighty and Everlasting God, who dost enkindle the flame of Thy love in the hearts of the saints, grant unto us the same faith and power of love; that, as we rejoice in their triumphs we may profit by their examples, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
I love this idea - that God “enkindles”, God stirs the fire of love in our hearts. Which saint exemplifies, to you, this idea?