I have a long day today with not at all that much to do. I'm happy about that. I can get some reading done and enjoy a relaxing day. Today's readings are from Proper 8, Year 2 of the Book of Common Prayer. I won't have comments for all these selections and remember my thoughts are simply off-the-cuff kind of ideas. I'm simply thinking my way through Scripture each day. I think this is a good way to set the right tone for my heart and mind each day.
Psalm 122 It's a terrible thing to live with anxiety. It's a terrible thing to sit around waiting on that phone call from a doctor or a lawyer or a friend or a boss. It's a terrible thing how the bowels get turned inside out and start heaving up into your chest and that tickling feeling spreads across the plane of your entire soul makes matters worse. Is there a solution? Is there a fix? I suppose one could take some pills. I tried that for a while when I was younger, but it didn't help. Anxiety medications do just that: they medicate. They do not solve the underlying problem of why we are anxious in the first place which is not always a biological problem even if the results of anxiety are biological. "I will say 'Peace be within you.'" "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem." "May those who love you be secure." "May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels." Why is there peace in Jerusalem? There's peace in Jerusalem in the throng of worshipers going up to Praise the name of the Lord. Worship isn't, then, a mere distraction or something we do on Sundays. Jerusalem is the city of the Great King (Matthew 5:35). Worship is our citadel of peace and what we do in Jerusalem is seek the Lord who is our peace. Eugene Peterson wrote, "[Peace] gathers all aspects of wholeness that result from God's will be completed in us" (A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, 56). Maybe peace flows from trusting God's will and trusting God's will flows from worship–coming face to face with God and knowing him and his character. Maybe our own peace comes not from understanding all things but from being near someone who does, being near someone who is Peace himself. (See Isaiah 9:6 and Ephesians 2:14. Admittedly, these passages are both taken a bit out of context, but in some way they point to true peace as is found in Jesus.)
Numbers 22:21-38 Ever notice how important animals are in the Bible? Aside from the serpent in Genesis 3, animals typically are fairly positive in the Bible. Noah found doves helpful. Here Balaam's donkey talks to him. Later ravens will feed Elijah. In another story Jonah is swallowed up by a great fish. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus is the Lion of the Tribe of Juday who sits on God's throne (Rev 4-5). I'm sure there are others, but these few stand out as significant. Kind of makes one think that we ought to be a little or a lot more careful about the way we treat animals–one of them might save us some day from something we'd rather not have to face.
Matthew 21:23-32 "What we should also be asking is this. What should Jesus' followers be doing today that would challenge the powers of the present world with the news that he is indeed its rightful Lord? What should we be doing that would make people ask, 'By what right are you doing that?', to which the proper answer would be to tell, not now riddles about John the Baptist, but stories about Jesus himself?" (NT Wright, Matthew for Everyone, pt 2, page 77). Because people still ask these questions and many Christians simply have no answers. Or we have the wrong answers. Perhaps we rely on some outdated mode of logic or we rely on some well-worn favorite theologian. Or perhaps we put all of our eggs in the basket of US Constitution or decisions by the Supreme Court. Some even rely on the Bible itself–as did slavers in past centuries. But there must be a way where we can say that our lives are in accord with the life and actions of Jesus. It's not merely a matter of what would Jesus do because I don't think that will do for very long. And I don't think it boils down to merely propping up a moral decision that we thing Scripture justifies. So when the Chief Priests and elders came to Jesus they said, "By what authority are you doing these things?" We might ask, "What things are they talking about?" What was he doing but taking over the temple leadership and setting himself up in place of the chief priests and teachers and elders: he was teaching and he was healing and he was concerned that the house of prayer (that is, trusting reliance upon God who will bring about his will in his way in his time) was turned into a hive for brigands and revolutionaries (that is, those who will bring about a kingdom through their own violent ways without regard to God's will or justice).
It seems that our Psalm for today (122) and Jesus's words and actions in Matthew have something in common. Ultimately, they are both about peace and where that peace comes from. "I was glad when my friends said 'Let's go up to Jerusalem' and 'seek the house of the Lord our God.'" And what do we find when we go up and seek the house of the Lord our God? Well, we find Jesus: we find him rebuking the faithless way of violence. We find him welcoming those who had been excluded from temple worship (blind and lame). And we find him teaching the way of God's kingdom, faith, and righteousness. And isn't it funny who gets upset when Jesus does these things? You know, those who seem to have the most to lose–that is, their power. I love how Jesus simply loves, welcomes, and heals people and in so doing strips away the power of the powerful who will not.
That's all for now. I hope to let all this sink deeply into my heart today as I continue this journey of learning to trust God's way and have faith that His will will be done.