Stand up! Come forth, and speak!

It has been quite some time since I posted a lectionary reflection here.  I have sorely missed my weekly time with scripture; even in some incredibly busy and very dark weeks, I’ve prayed for the energy and will to sit with the words, to let them fill me and bring water to the dry places within me.

The readings for this coming Sunday seem to bounce around a bit.  I tend to read straight through them in order once, sit for a moment, and then to read them a second time in reverse order, finishing with the collect for the day.  In my second, reverse reading, one thread began to shine for me from the tapestry of words, and it’s a thread we’ve heard in the lections both today and last week.

One week ago, we heard the story of the boy Samuel, who was called from his bed by God’s voice.  Samuel’s master Eli gave him the words he needed for the correct response to God: here I am, God; what do you need from me? Then this morning, we heard a bit from the story of the prophet Jonah, who suffered when he gave the opposite response to God: go away, God; I’m not doing that in a million years! Next Sunday, what we hear from the Old Testament is not a story, but a direct lesson.  When we walk away from God, God promises to send a prophet — someone to speak with God’s voice, to show us how we have fallen away, to help us get back onto the right track.  It is quite a progression these three Sundays: an example of the right way to respond to God’s voice, an example of the wrong way to respond to God’s voice, and a promise that there will always be prophets among us who speak with God’s voice.

The reading we have from Paul’s letter to the Christians in Corinth may feel more than a bit confusing.  His message shines along this same thread, though.  Even though we may not always be conscious, all of us speak with God’s voice.  This may not be immediately obvious from his words, I realize.  🙂  Paul is talking about eating food that is forbidden to Jewish people in his time.  He says that there really isn’t a problem with eating food that had been sacrificed to idols, to other gods, because all food really belongs to the one and only God.  However, he says, you are a Christian, a follower of Jesus.  Your actions reflect on God, on Jesus.  If you are a Christian, and you are seen eating this forbidden food by those who don’t understand, then those others may question your belief and your God.  Your actions as a Christian may lead others away from God, rather than drawing them nearer to God.

There are other ways we can do this today, since we seem to lack an abundance of food sacrificed to other gods in 21st century America.  We can paste a Christian symbol on our bumper, and then drive out onto the highway merrily cutting people off, saluting other drivers with The Finger, and yelling at others to get out of our way.  We can go out for lunch after church Sunday morning, and leave our server a bible tract in place of a tip.  We can click our tongues and give sideways glances when someone comes into our church who doesn’t seem to belong, someone who is dressed differently or who doesn’t quite know how to behave or who smells funny.  When we do these things, our example speaks with God’s voice, though most certainly not in God’s words.  And when we do these things, we chip away at the faith of those who doubt, and we chip away at the credibility of our God in this world.  Paul tells us that this is a sin against Christ.  Moses tells us — in God’s voice — that those who speak in God’s voice a word that God did not command, those of us who do this are false prophets who will die.

The gospel story from Mark tells of the fame and notoriety of Jesus spreading through Galilee.  In this particular story, Jesus goes into the synagogue on the sabbath and taught.  A young man, Jesus spoke with authority, direct and confident, in God’s voice.  While he was there, an unclean spirit recognized Jesus, not simply as a person with authority, but as the Messiah, the savior of Israel, the holy one of God.  The people in the synagogue were amazed when Jesus commanded the spirit, and it obeyed.

One part of the humanness of Jesus is that at every opportunity, he could make Jonah’s choice; every day, Jesus decided to say, “Yes, God, I am here.  What do you want from me today?” rather than “Not in a million years!”  Jesus had the opportunity to make choices that would pull us away from God rather than drawing us in, but he didn’t do this.  Rather, Jesus welcomed us all, gave us all in our weakness the best example of how to act and speak, showed us all how to speak with God’s voice, in God’s words.

So how do we know which are God’s words and which are not?  The psalm gives us some hints.  We know that God’s words are full of majesty and splendor, are of enduring righteousness (not of fleeting comfort), are gracious and full of compassion, are food for us (nourishing us rather than being empty), are faithful and just, are done in truth and equity, bring redemption to God’s people.  In every choice we make during a day, we have these things to weigh.  Does this action show grace and compassion, faithfulness and justice?  Does it nourish and build up, or does it tear down?  Does it reveal the redemption Jesus brings us?

Our challenge this week is to continue our “Yes, God, I am here” response, to recognize that every one of us represents God to our world, that every one of us speaks with God’s voice — and to use this knowledge to make the best choices in how we act and speak, so that we speak not only with God’s voice but with the words God has commanded as well.  And Jesus made those words pretty clear to us:

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

I pray that this week, I’ll be able to keep those commandments in my thoughts, so that my choices, my actions, my words will speak not only in God’s voice but in God’s words as well.  Peace be with you, my friends.

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2 thoughts on “Stand up! Come forth, and speak!

  1. i thoroughly enjoyed your understanding of this week’s text. i especially like how you brought last week’s into this week by pointing out that Jesus chose everyday to say “here I am God.” something about that struck me deeply.

    thank you so very much for sharing your wonderful thoughts!

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