David said, ‘The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.’ So Saul said to David, ‘Go, and may the Lord be with you!’
1 Peter 4:11
Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Words of Grace For Today
Going into battle with nothing more than trust in God is wholly foolhardy.
David has brought provisions from their father to his brothers who serve in Saul’s army, now facing the Philistines. He hears of Goliath’s challenge. He witnesses the Israelis cowering in fear. He speaks up that facing such an enemy and putting him to defeat would surely win the king’s favour.
That just gets his brothers angry with him for his seeming foolishness.
David’s words reach Saul’s ears, he is summon, and David offers to be the one to fight Goliath. Saul rebukes him. David is just a boy. Then the verse above is David’s response. He has faced down lions and bears. Certainly he can face down one man. Saul, with few other options, sends David as a last hope, or rather as a meaningless sacrifice to let Goliath demonstrate his battle powers.
Saul dresses David in Saul’s own armour, and David takes it off because he cannot move in it. Instead he takes staff and 5 smooth stones from the wadi.
The rest is history.
Goliath falls. David rises to become the celebrated king of Israel.
Most of us, fortunately, will not have to go into battle, nor serve as king. Instead our battles will be less fatal by all appearances. Our callings will be varied, and God sends us out to be as courageous (not to be confused with foolhardy) as David in what we do.
Most of all, just as David relies fully on the little skills he has and the great faith that he has in God, so we are to rely on our God-given skills and more so on the great faith God gives us.
It is our attitude of gratitude (for God saving us and giving us renewed life each day) more than anything else that will carry us through adversity.
God did not create us all so that we can seek our own glory. God created, redeems, and renews us so that all people will know how great God’s mercy is, how abundant God’s grace is, and how beautifully unconditional God’s love for us is.
That’s something to start the day with: knowing that we, whatever we are called to be and do, do it all as God’s people.
Will We Choose to See Beyond Our Own Greeds, to Other’s Needs?
The lover of money will not be satisfied with money; nor the lover of wealth, with gain. This also is vanity.
1 Timothy 6:8-9
If we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.
Words of Grace For Today
It would seem to be common sense that money is necessary for life and a lot of money will make for a better life. Much of humanity has lived so. Before there was money it was wealth of whatever kind was recognized in their day.
Wisdom has always taught that pursuing money/wealth is a sure route to despair and futility. The writer of Ecclesiastes is right, such pursuits are all vanity, and vanity that serve nothing in life or in death. In fact they hasten death even though one may still walk, talk, breathe and chase after more money/wealth.
The writer of 1 Timothy has it correct if incompletely so. When we have the necessities of life we can be content, though the necessities of life are more than just food and clothing. They also include clean air and water, adequate shelter, meaningful labour and being able to love and be loved. With these we ought to be content, though we rarely are.
Built into our DNA, our survival, is the drive to make things better for ourselves and those with us. So even after we have the necessities of life we strive to have more … and that striving is rots our souls at the core.
Our ability to labour on earth is not intended to be used for ourselves alone. It is to be labour that makes life possible and better for everyone.
Today, just another today, is a day …
when we are able
for God’s bountiful blessings to be enjoyed by more and more people.
One Would Hope Enough Brains to Figure Out Something Better for the Environment,
Like Haul It Out (As The Law Requires)
1 Samuel 3:19
As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.
‘Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.’
Words of Grace For Today
Letting one’s words fall to the ground.
That’s a great image of losing one’s voice, of not being heard, of not being enough that one’s voice reaches any ear and merely peters out like a plane out of fuel and they bite the dust.
To have God ensure that one’s words do not fall to the ground! Now that is something blessed.
We really don’t know what we’ve got until we lose it. And then when we lose our voice, and people shun us (though we’ve done nothing to deserve it, it’s all lies and deception made up to cover other’s sins), and we are cast out, unable to work, or earn a living, and we become dependent at best and desperate at least, and dead at worst.
So after one has been made to be nothing by other people’s cruelties that seem to have no end, when God comes along and promises to ‘not let your words fall to the ground’, it is to be raised from the dead and to be brought home again.
So it is.
Whoever listens, listens. And whoever rejects a person, rejects the one who gives life to that person.
May we learn to listen more carefully, kindly, with empathy to those ‘cast out’ by the world’s ways.
That’s what those two good ears God gave us are for, after all! Holding glasses in place and hanging ear rings from them may be good and even beautiful, but listening …
to be damned by our own blindness and foolish ways?
No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
Then they said to him, ‘What must we do to perform the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’
Words of Grace For Today
‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’
Or to put it another way: It is God’s work, not ours, to believe in Jesus.
Here we see Jesus responding to questions that really have no good answer, not as those asking would understand what a good answer might be.
The person comes with a certain way of seeing the world. It is a very unhealthy, sometimes really destructive way of seeing the world. It is a common way of seeing the world. It is to see the world as if God really did not exist and as if God did not create the universe and everything in it and as if God did not love every person in ways we can at best imagine only a little bit.
One such common question is ‘How can I save myself and my family from the threat of the foreign powers that rule our world?’
There are lots of things that one could try to do. Maybe they are even possible to do. But none of them will save you from the real threats to you and your families lives, because the foreign powers are not the greatest or the worst threats to your lives. The greatest threat to life is always to assume one lives outside God’s favour, blessings and grace.
Another common enough question is, ‘How can I get a [fill in the romantic preference, girl/boy/woman/man/monkey (just kidding)] to fall in love with me?’
The reality is no one can get anyone else to fall in love with them. Often people think they can ‘trick’ or ‘seduce’ another person to love them, but the result cannot ever be love. It is much, much less and if it’s based on deception, it will always be destructive to all parties.
The right question is, ‘How can I love someone with all my being, even when they might never love me in return? And if they never do, can I then learn to love someone else with all my being?’
The answer to that question is simple: be honest, open, trustworthy, kind and … be yourself. Then if someone should love you, they will love the real you.
The tricky part of all these ‘love me’ questions is not the love part, it is being ‘me’, and being ‘me’ in such a way as to be the best that God created ‘me’ to be.
But, as is almost always the case when people ask important questions, the problem is in the person asking the question, not the world around them; and usually the problem is they have not figured out how to be themselves. They imitate, pretend, hope, and fail, but they never really know who they are.
So in the reading for today the people come to Jesus and ask, ‘What must we do to perform the works of God?’
Which is an odd question. They might mean, ‘what must we do to do what God would have us do?’ but instead they ask, ‘what must we do in order to do the things that only God can do?’
The obvious answer is ‘you cannot do a thing since you simply will never do God’s work for God’. God does that work just fine, thank you. And only God does that work.
But telling the people who are asking in earnest this odd question is not kind. So Jesus answers another question, perhaps a question the people meant to ask, and perhaps the question that they could have asked. Always Jesus answers the people with something that is REALLY important for them to hear.
So Jesus tells these inquisitive people: ‘God’s work is to believe in me, the one God sent to you!’
That’s what they need to hear. It’s all about believing in Jesus.
The thing they do not hear is this: only the Holy Spirit can bring a person to believe in Jesus. Oh, people, dear stumbling, controlling people. No one can bring themselves to believe. And look at all the work, the words, the movements, the effort spent over the last 2000 years to get people to believe in Jesus!
Writing long before Jesus’ day Jeremiah knew well what faith in God was all about. It is about God working in us all that God wills for us: that we know God and love God, ourselves, our neighbours and our enemies, and all creation! Jeremiah sees that God does it all for us: ‘No longer shall we teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for we shall all know God, from the least of us to the greatest, [as the Lord says]; for God, and God alone, will forgive our iniquity, and remember our sin no more.
For the Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.
For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Words of Grace For Today
Ah Ephesians, Ephesians. So like so much truncated and 1/4 turn twisted faith. Jesus shows us we cannot save ourselves. The twist is simple: after Jesus saves us, then we are able to save ourselves.
The world and people in it would have to be of an entirely different creator for that to be possible.
Yes, the Holy Spirit gives us the courage to recognize that we should, and by God’s grace sometimes do,
put away our former way of life, you old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of our minds, and to clothe ourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
This is a marvellous miracle for us when God accomplishes this in us, and in those around us, or anyone on this planet … and then we go off the rails, back to our old ways
like Ephesians, thinking we can save ourselves, and not being able to at all, but making up story after story as if we can, have and will …
which is the devil’s fertile ground for all the destruction that follows in such self-delusions.
So we beg: God save us again,
and again without end,
so that we might reflect the power of your grace for us, so that others may know your grace for them.
Oh, God, give us a bit of righteousness, today, if you could. We certainly do need it. We all need it.
I will lead the blind by a road they do not know, by paths they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I will do, and I will not forsake them.
1 Peter 2:9
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.
Words of Grace For Today
Jim sat in the darkness of the bright day.
He could not see the horizon out there where the sun should have been. Not that many years ago he’d met Beatrice and she swept him off his feet before he knew what was happening. She was in her mid-thirties. Jim was 8 years older. Then he’d fallen in love and given everything to her. They proclaimed their love for each other and promised their lives to each other, until death did them part. They were madly in love with each other and everything looked so wonderful.
Jim moved in with Bea in her grand house and he worked to turn it into their shared home. They travelled to France and then to the Maritimes. They went sailing in the Caribbean for a week. It was all a dream come true. Their second year together their twins arrived, a girl and a boy. As agreed he stayed home to raise the children so she could go back to work. He put his career on hold. That first year was a dream come true.
The honeymoon shine wore off soon after Bea became pregnant with twins. He did everything he could to support her. She flew off the handle at him and others, making wild accusations. Her screaming at him cut him to the quick and he’d be silent trying to ‘fix’ whatever Bea ‘needed fixing’. He interpreted everything she did in the best possible light and went out of his way to bolster her fragile ego. She tore strips of him, saw everything he did in the worst possible light and worse blamed him for things he had nothing to do with.
Jim tried valiantly to reconnect her to her parents and siblings, though she seemed to hate them for no real reason. He met them and they were pretty good people, and as in-laws they were very supportive of him, even in awe of him. Bea refused to have anything to do with his family or his friends. She’d have a wild tantrum, throwing things, and even beating on him every time he spent time on the phone with them. Visiting any of them was out of the question. Soon he gave up keeping any contact with them.
Then Bea started telling ‘stories’ about Jim to her family. They were things he had never done. Some Bea had done to him. When she told them that he was the one beating on her, they stopped talking to him all together. He heard from their daughter’s teacher at school that she said he was sexual with her. It wasn’t true but soon it was impossible to go to school with the children for anything. People at church started to avoid him.
That had been more than a year ago. Jim could barely sleep. The doctor put him on one drug, then another, then another until he was taking 5 medications besides his allergy medicine and the sleep apnea machine he wore at night. Every two weeks he got either a testosterone or a B12 shot. He was so dragged out he could barely get anything done. He would often sit down alone after everyone left for school and not notice anything until the bus arrived to deliver the twins home. He talked with two different therapists by phone, and once a month travel 3 hours to see one of them. His hair turned grey and already the first year with Bea he’d lost 50 lbs trying to please her. He just went hungry and did not eat. No one could tell him what the matter was with him. He prayed, he meditated, he gave Bea gifts for no special occasion. He had worked out at the gym for a year but gave up on it when he injured his shoulder. He tried to walk but it was slow going, nothing like the running he’d done when he was in his 20’s. He told his doctors and therapists that he felt like he was 85 or 90 and barely able to think, work, sleep or even exist.
Bea’s promise to him, and his to her, that they would love each other until death did them part, looped endlessly in his mind. The only sense he could make of anything was that he needed to die, to be free of the weight, to finally be accepted by someone somewhere. He already had a new bottle of sleeping pills. He bought 2 large bottles of the cheapest whisky he saw at the liquor store. He cleaned the house, sorted the garaged, and their two vehicles. He made sure the groceries were bought for the coming two weeks. The fridge was bursting. He even took the recycle bottles to the depot and the garbage and recycling to the transfer station. Months ago he’d made sure his life insurance was in order. There was nothing more he could do to make things better.
Jim sat in the darkness of the bright day.
There was no distance between the end of the horizon and his arms stretched out pleading in prayer. No one heard his voice. No one had heard his voice for longer than he could remember.
It was a Sunday evening. He read a story to the twins and said good night. He made sure everything was secure in the house. He grabbed his backpack with the whisky in it. He put the sleeping pills in his pocket, put on a warm jacket and walked a mile to the woods. He sat on his special log, took all the sleeping pills, drank one bottle and most of the second before he was numbed and so tired. Finally he would be able to sleep and be free and be home.
Jim knew well most of the Bible. He was familiar with Isaiah’s words: I will lead the blind by a road they do not know, by paths they have not known I will guide them.
He had to trust that this path he’d taken was the only one God had for him.
There were no shelters for abused men. People could not imagine that men are abused just like women are, not the therapist and certainly not the doctors or the teachers or their pastor or any of Bea’s family … or any one at all.
Not one single person could imagine a man being abused, not one person Jim had talked to in the last 9 years as he suffered … until he could not take any more.
Many of them may have been members of a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that they may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called them out of darkness into his marvellous light.
But no one thought they could help Jim find the light of life, because, well, women may beat on men, but they do not abuse them, not women. Reports are abuse kills ten times as many men than women, many of them by abuse that drives them to suicide. It is important to stop men abusing women, because it always ends in death for the abused. But, they say, men are not abused,
so they say.
So Jim is just another statistic that is ignored. And Bea will find another man to raise the children for her, and abuse him and the children. He will likely die, and they will become abusers if they survive.
But women do not abuse men or
so they say.
Oh, God, save us!
Save us all, though it is too late for Jim and millions like him, God, save us!
Turn the darkness before us into light, the rough places into level ground.
Do not forsake us!
Do not forsake the men who are abused to death!
Do not forsake the children who never have a chance to know what love really is.
Today, many men will sit in the darkness of the bright day. No one will see them. No one will hear them.
Oh, God save them and us who do not see and do not hear and cannot imagine the darkness of their reality of being abused.
For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.
So then, each of us will be accountable to God. Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling-block or hindrance in the way of another.
Words of Grace For Today
Today I repaired a wire on the truck I borrow. Not a big deal, just a speed sensor for a wheel, without which the computer stabilizer to help avoid sliding (it’s the computer program that nearly threw me into oncoming traffic when the roads were icy!) , to supposedly maintain traction (when one or more wheels is wont to spin), and to determine when to use the ABS braking. Only the last is worth much, but still it’s best to keep everything in repair. One can turn off the other two if need be.
The thing is the wire to the speed sensor is not in a place where it can get caught on anything, and the wire did not wear through or break. It was cut, not just once but twice (so the wire did not hang down I would guess after the first cut!) Someone came out here while I was bicycling to town and intentionally cut the wire, twice. Talk about … well dirty dealing, sabotage, and something someone is going to answer for! Well, not because of me.
It’s just we always trust or at least hope that those that do dirty deals will eventually be caught and will pay for what they have done.
Our scriptural record tends to support that as well.
‘Even if other humans never know what you’ve done, God knows and you will have to pay for what you thought you got away with’, or so goes the thought. Much like the wall hanging I once saw and was caught off guard by enough to take a photo of it:
Karma, I have a list of people you seemed to have missed. Come around again, please.
The list of popular sayings along this line are endless, for example:
What goes around, comes around.
Crime does not pay.
If you live by the sword, you will die by the sword.
Everyone gets what’s coming to them, eventually.
Except, despite all our wishes that it were so, this is not how God tells us God works.
Yes, what is hidden or secret will come to light.
Yes, though everyone else may not know, God knows. God knows everything.
Yes, there will be judgment for everyone.
Yes, yes, yes … except.
God’s clearest statement for us is in Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection, by which it is clear that God’s foremost and consistent manner of dealing with us is grace, ie God judges us and forgives us our sins. God judges our enemies and all evil doers, and all people, and God forgives us all … except some sins God does not forgive … but we will never know what sins God will not and does not forgive.
We can bind or retain all the sins we deem worthy of such note, but we do not judge others. Only God judges, and God judges us all, as God knows all, sees and hears all, and reads every mind and heart.
Where does that leave us?
Should we toss every care to the wind and make our way through life of sin and evil with no care in the world, because God will, after all, forgive us anyway?
Should we not notice other people’s sins and care that their sins hurt not only us but many, many other people?
Should we just give up!
No, none of that, not no way, no how!
God graciously deals with us and equips us to love … to love ourselves, to love our neighbours all, and even to love our enemies.
Our task is to share God’s Grace, not to pretend we can judge others for God.
Yes each of us will be accountable to God.
But the best we can do is get out of God’s way, and not get in other people’s way of seeing God.
Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling-block or hindrance in the way of another.
That is the tricky part: not being a hindrance to others, and not putting stumbling blocks in others’ way to seeing God’s Grace for them!
Tall order, for short people … but short people well equipped for the gift of life and grace for all.
(The Parties are the BEST. I do the sweaty labour, God does the drinking, Works out the best for us all!)
And I Keep Getting New Invitations!
I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations.
We have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in Jesus.
Words of Grace For Today
When Sheila gave gifts they always spoke loudly of the strings she attached to them. She gave her husband, a high school math teacher, two airline tickets to Hawaii one Christmas, and a membership in a local fitness club. It went without saying that she expected him to get fit to show himself off in a bathing suit by the middle of February when they would be on their way to the sun and beaches and the surf.
Sheila gave her three kids full scholarships to the university of their choice along with memberships in the local chapter of the conservative political party. It went without saying that she expected each of them to pursue a career that would gain them recognition so that their contributions to returning the conservatives to government happened sooner rather than later. When her oldest daughter decided to major in philosophy, political science, and economics she was pleased. She was not as happy that her daughter chose the university most noted for it’s liberal, even socialist, professors. She didn’t know about the anarchist movement among the PPE students. When her daughter decided to continue on to law school, her mother was so proud. She even offered to pay for law school. Her daughter graduated at the top of her class and passed the bar in three provinces. And she accomplished the extraordinary: she passed the bar in three American states as well. About that time her second daughter was just finishing her degree in education. Her mom didn’t say much. But when her oldest, the lawyer, took work with the innocence project and then her second daughter started teaching in an inner city school, both living, working and contributing to political parties not their mother’s conservatives, she demanded they repay her for their education costs.
Both thanked her again for her generous support, and told her there was no way they would think of trying to repay her.
About then the youngest, Sheila’s only son, looked at what his mother was demanding of his older sisters. He passed on university and his plans to double major in architecture and engineering. Instead he took an apprenticeship. He figured he could work 5 years and save enough for his first year of university and maybe figured it out on his own from there to get his degree. He had no plans to owe his mother for anything, and he had no plans to join any political party. He volunteered at the local food bank and helped out at a weekly soup kitchen. His long term plan was to design and build low cost housing that promoted healthy living, but he’d never dared tell his mother that.
Sheila’s husband graciously accepted the airline tickets for two, visited the ‘fitness club’ of his choice, and in February took that trip to Hawaii with his ‘fitness’ club’s owner, who was two years younger than he was, but about as committed to nothing as anyone Sheila knew. After the first 5 hours he and the ‘fitness club’ owner agreed to go their separate ways. Sheila’s husband didn’t need to put on a swimsuit once during the vacation and he enjoyed every minute of it out in the sun and inside in the air conditioning. He’s filled for divorce and never looked back.
God gives us greater gifts. There are no hidden, unspoken expectations. There are no performance reviews, or right political party to join (though there may be a few not to join). God provides everything we need, and only asks (and asks clearly for anyone to hear who has ears to hear) that we share everything God gives us (less things and more so Grace, forgiveness, love and life abundant) with everyone we possibly can figure out how to share them with.
Most importantly God takes us by the hand and guides us, if we but listen. We are not on our own, ever. Secondly, God does not deal with us so graciously so that we can hide it all under a bushel basket in the back yard and pretend that life is somehow the same. Everything is different, not because we have earned it or changed, or done the right things, or not even that we’ve believed the right things. What changed is that we have acknowledged that God is there with us.
God presents us, like any proud parent would, to the world. God is not bragging about us, but showing off what God can do … with sinners like us. God invites the nations into God’s kingdom of grace. God puts us on the invitations as examples of how life is good for those who acknowledge, with boldness and confidence through faith in Jesus, all that God has done for us!
Have you seen the invitation with your name on it, or are you still trying to ignore it? First God wants to give you everything that life has to offer and then God wants to show you off as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations.
He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all.
Words of Grace For Today
In the quiet of the hermitage, holy by years of holy celebrations, the rain fell mixed with snow, and chilled the air, still above freezing.
This is peace.
This is peace,
For there is no war,
This is peace,
For there is no one seeking to kill me,
not right now, right here … that I know of.
This is peace,
For in the cool of the evening just begun the warmth from the woodstove promises safety and comfort against any chilling cold.
This is peace,
For there is plenty of clean water, plenty of healthy food and drink, and plenty of work to do so that boredom and lack of purpose have no purchase here … for now.
This is peace,
For the wind that has beat the tarps about is calmed, and the music of the meadow is natural other than the fans to cool the solar power systems, and they are reminders of what can be done with next to no carbon footprint.
This is peace,
For this is what God has provided, for this day, hear and now.
This is peace, for come what may, God walks with me in this meadow and beyond, as God walks with you where you are and beyond.
For all this we give God endless praise and thanks.
There are so many places and times that are not peace.
We remember the people who suffer
causing the lack of peace, and
those suffering the lack of peace.
For them we pray this day, that God will provide them peace, and a peace that ends violence and suffering.
But hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have done to this day.
2 Corinthians 3:5
Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God.
Words of Grace For Today
How does one remain focused, determined, clear headed, and adamantly sure of one’s identity when …
when one’s very physical existence is challenged each day by hunger (can faith feed one’s body?),
when one’s very physical existence is challenged each day by the struggle to survive in an environment that would do one in were one not vigilant, determined, and persistently at work preparing for the next challenge to life itself (can faith protect one from minus 40⁰ cold, plus 40⁰ heat, wasps, mosquitoes, bear, and coyotes?),
when one’s very physical existence is challenged each day by dependence on the good will of those who would strip one of any identity they cannot bear to acknowledge (can faith please the demands to be other than faithful, when those demands are made by those who provide the necessities of life?),
when one’s very physical existence is challenged each day by the overwhelming apparent ‘successes’ of those who have surrendered their identity to become other than God’s people and the overwhelming apparent ‘failure’ of one’s own life while maintaining one’s identity as God’s chosen, forgiven, restored, and sent messenger of Grace embodied in thought, word and deed? (Can faith provide success when there is none in the past, present, or future to be seen?)
Old Joshua, after years of leading the people to conquer and claim their place in the Promised Land, reminds the people to remember Moses’ Law and not to deviate to the beliefs of the foreigners taken into their midst and the ways of their new neighbours.
Paul reminds the cantankerous Corinthians to trust that their competence in all matters depends not on themselves, but on God’s work in and through them.
Does that help us maintain our faith and identity, when it is under siege? Will God send us a competent new ‘Joshua’ to lead us to claim a place in our ‘Promised Land?’ Is there a ‘Promised Land’ for us here on earth?
Will God provide clarity in Moses’ Law (interpreted through Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection) for us so that we will receive justice when we stand before the courts that continually work from the lies presented to them, and the lies they add on to the pile of lies, to further rob the security of life that even the government would provide to seniors caught in poverty, a poverty created by the courts injustice?
Does Moses’ Law (interpreted through Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection) or God’s competence build us sufficient shelter each season to protect us from the increasingly dangerous climate and the animals of the wilderness?
Does Moses’ Law (interpreted through Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection) or God’s competence preserve our identity and continue to provide us the basics of life in the face of our generous providers who demand we become someone else, more like them as hypocrites who profess faith in God and yet live by lies and destruction of others to cover their sins, instead of accepting forgiveness and restoration and being that restored truth-justice-grace for all other people?
These all seem to be impossibilities that leave us vulnerable to the demands and challenges placed on us by the injustice based on lies worked against us.
This is not the end of the story! Not by any means!
God sends messengers to revive faith in us amidst the greatest challenges.
A scriptural passage, a devotion, a commentary, an insightful sermon, a soul probing song and melody, a book, a news report, a quote: all of these God uses to restore faith in us, to remind us of who (and whose) we are, and to rejuvenate hope in us, a hope that carries us forward through all challenges, blessed to be a blessing to all people.
Malala Yousafzai Malik is one such person. Her book, I Am Malala, is full of inspiration as she spoke out for education for girls (and boys). Wikipedia provides the following among many words about her that inspire one to persevere as God’s chosen:
She left Jon Stewart speechless when she described her thoughts after learning the Pakistani Taliban wanted her dead, saying:
“I started thinking about that, and I used to think that the Talib would come, and he would just kill me. But then I said, ‘If he comes, what would you do Malala?’ then I would reply to myself, ‘Malala, just take a shoe and hit him.’ But then I said, ‘If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others but through peace and through dialogue and through education.’ Then I said I will tell him how important education is and that ‘I even want education for your children as well.’ And I will tell him, ‘That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.”
Stewart visibly moved by her words ended the conversation saying: “I am humbled to speak with you.“
Stewart would again have her as a guest on the show after the 2015 Charleston Church Shooting, in which he started the show citing no jokes saying, “our guest is a incredible person who suffered unspeakable violence by extremists and her perseverance and determination through that to continue on is an incredible inspiration and to be quite honestly with you, I don’t think there’s anyone else in the world I would rather talk to tonight than Malala so that’s what we’ll do and sorry about no jokes.”
In the face of violence that threatens her life, she would eschew violence of any kind and speak, offering education and then say ‘now do what you want.’
May we all acknowledge that we have the Peace of God, the competence of God, the guidance in the Law of Moses which we need in order to remain faithful, always, even in the face of those who would kill us, undo us, try to corrupt us, and name us as failures.
So we pray: Help us Lord, to remember the successes you have brought in our lives to many others, the faith you have shared with many through us, and the hope that you have poured through us to so many people. In gratitude we acknowledge all your people whose thoughts, words and deeds inspire us (and many others) to trust in your promises to walk with us, and, in the end, to bring us home with all the saints in light.