Lectionary Readings for Feb. 10. Isaiah 6:1-13, Psalm 138, 1 Cor. 15:1-11, Luke 5:1-11
Sometimes the lectionary readings seem to have nothing to do with each other-not this time! Following up on last weeks thoughts where Jeremiah felt he was unworthy to fulfill his calling, look at these:
Isaiah: "Woe is me! I am lost for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips..."
Psalm 138: For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away."
1 Cor: "I am the least of all apostles, unfit to be called an apostle..."
Luke: "Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!"
The same feeling Jeremiah had, of being out of his league, is echoed by so many of the great Biblical leaders. (Isaiah, Paul, and Peter here, Jeremiah and Moses also come immediately to mind.) The common thread in their success is that they rely on God, not on themselves, as they go about doing what they are called to do.
The Psalm stands out in all of this for me. In the last year or so, Tim and I have had discussions with a number of people who are losing interest in faith and the church. Most have nothing against the church, but they aren't interested, it feels like just one more demand on their lives. "Irrelevant", "I find what I need elsewhere" are two of the things we've heard. I wonder if this apathy is a result of wealth. We have money and time for so many activities, so much travel, so many things. We no longer feel an immediate need to rely on God (or the church) for help, community, social outlets, teaching, etc...because we find these things elsewhere.
People who struggle, however, look to God. I saw this in Sudan when I visited in 2010. Our group met people who had nothing, all human institutions had failed them. (No banks, no stores, no jobs, you couldn't even mail a letter!) The church, however, was strong and vibrant. It was working to help people, to offer hope, to build community, to teach...and they were doing it all as people who had nothing but faith. It was awe-inspiring, and humbling. The Nuer people worshipping with us understand this, and their faith and hard work is inspiring. If we think back to our own histories, most of us have parents or grandparents who were also refugees. Many also tell stories of how faith kept them alive.
Last Friday, Tim lead a Bible study overview of the Old Testament with a number of people from the Nuer group. He came home excited. One comment he made was that, if we locate ourselves in Israel's story, right now we are like the Israelites living in comfort and complacency. Jeremiah and the prophets are railing against us, telling us our wealth and the injustices of our way of life is leading to destruction. We're at a point where it is hard to listen, because life is good and God feels distant. This is where the words of Psalm 138 fit in. "the haughty he perceives from far away." Maybe when things are going well, we run the risk of moving further from God. I don't think God has distanced his/her self from us, I think we've distanced ourselves from God.