This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on September 10, 2017.
When you looked in a mirror this morning, what did you see? Mirrors help us see what we can not see for ourselves. In the New Testament, the mirror is a common metaphor. Paul tells the church in Corinth that God sees us fully and knows us fully, but we can only see dimly. What he’s saying is that we can not fully see ourselves and God as God sees. Then later in the second letter, he tells the Corinthian church that this process of seeing God’s essence in the mirror, even though not fully, still transforms us. James, in a similar way, uses the metaphor of a mirror for how Scripture shows us how to move our faith into the realm of practice.
This week’s gospel text in the Lectionary does not explicitly use a mirror metaphor but shows us how we need each other to see ourselves. Matthew 18 is commonly used as a text for conflict management, understood from the perspective of the victim. If you are a victim of someone’s violation, confront them in person rather than through gossip. Do this first individually, then with witnesses, then with the greater community. The conflict management is an appropriate reading of the text.
What if we were to read the text from the perspective of the violator? How do we know when we have hurt someone? Do we welcome a healthy feedback loop? Who do we trust in our lives as mirrors to show us when our unhealed trauma spills onto others? This is an alternate reading of the text that can provide healing to our blind spots.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on November 20th, 2016.
Jeremiah is concerned with speaking truth, and truth can sometimes be painful. Jeremiah’s opening line of this passage is, “Woe to the shepherds.” The leaders of people of God, here probably referencing the kings of Judah, have failed the people. They have misled them and scattered the flock. A shepherd’s main task is guiding his or her flock, but this group has failed. Any amount of time spent in the church will bring about an example of a shepherd not tending to the flock. We can all think of the prime examples that come to mind. The scandals and swift downfalls are easy to notice. But, we might also do well to remember the small things that can lead a flock astray. Perhaps it is the simple temptation of a little more power. Perhaps, it is the allure of wealth and relevance. These small things can cause a shepherd to mislead his or her flock. As one preaching, Jeremiah’s hard truth probably calls for self-examination as much as indignation.
“I will attend to you.” These words from the Lord are of judgment, but they are also words motivated by care for His flock. The Lord has had enough and plans to take matters into His own hands. First, God will deal with those who have failed at their task. The judgment of God does not come from an arbitrary place. No, God steps into right a wrong to bring justice.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on October 9nd, 2016.
“Seeing is believing.” This phrase sounds rather contrary to the whole idea of Christian faith, doesn’t it? Actually, earlier on in Luke, Jesus talks about the generation seeking a sign and categorizes them as “wicked.” But this passage seems to have its center based upon this action of “seeing,” maybe even alluding to the idea that this is the most important action taking place in this story.
At the beginning of this passage, we encounter Jesus on the way to Jerusalem when he encounters a group of lepers calling out his name. From the start, Jesus establishes himself as a curious character to a 21st-century reader because I cannot think of many road trips I have been on where I was willing to stop and attend care to someone calling out and asking me to help fix something of theirs. If it was a single person and seemed to be stranded, I might be a little more sympathetic; but, seeing as there are 10 of them I can at least feel better about myself because they have each other for company.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on September 18th, 2016.
The lament alone is why Jeremiah has been nicknamed the “Weeping Prophet.” Chapter eight is a prophetic poem is the source of the well-known spiritual There is a Balm in Gilead. The “balm” is healing medicine mentioned briefly in Genesis when a caravan of Ishmaelite’s traveling from Gilead to Egypt with a gum-like substance used to close and bind wounds (Gen 37:25). The rhetorical question “Is there a balm in Gilead?” is used to explore the depth of a spiritual and moral crisis in the Israelite community.
The mixture of God’s anguish and the grieving community in Jerusalem are interwoven in a lyrical mourning of the terror to come. In the face of demoralization and suffering, this lament has stood the test of time because these words touch the deepest parts of all humanity. The humanity of Jeremiah is evident through his own grief and depression. Jeremiah is lamenting for the community and for the God of his people. He is holding the tension between God’s anger and sadness and the profound loss of that Israel is and will continue to experience.