A stream of consciousness through the lectionary

Warning: I rip the lid off a can of words here, and make very little effort to clean up the mess. But somehow, in the midst of it, I think I caught a fish.

There are many and varied passages in the daily lectionary today (as every day), and to be frank, most of it is vaguely disturbing.

In Deuteronomy, we have God's beautiful promise to keep his covenant of love with Israel. But that is held in tension with a) God's having chosen one people to be set apart and loved above others (so it seems), and b) the speedy retribution to be meted out against any who stand against God. That beautiful covenant of love -- does it not pay a large part in Zionist zeal to be the only ones to occupy land in the territory historically possessed by the twelve tribes of Israel? What's a person to do with such a jealous and hot-tempered God?

Then we move to Titus, where Paul effuses graceful words about truth, hope, godliness, salvation, then goes on to not only repeat but affirm slanderous slogans about a national people, and calls them detestable. This after demanding the "circumcision group" be silenced. What was that about grace and peace, Paul?

It's difficult to know how to understand these words. In what context were they spoken? To whom? By whom? Why is the inspired word of God so puzzling, so offensive, so inscrutable?

I don't know. And I'm not going to tackle it here.

Another Lenten confession: I pick and choose. Things I like are to be taken at face value, things I don't must need interpretation. Surely there's a context for Paul's slurs against Cretans; maybe an ironic tone is clearly communicated to his audience but imperceptible to us. Maybe God doesn't really mean it when he says he won't be slow to repay those who hate him. In fact, in my experience, it seems slow to repay is exactly what God is toward those who hate him, which, given how my disobedience and impotence to exercise discipline or do the right thing could be interpreted as hating God, is pretty good news for me.

On that thought -- those who hate God -- Psalm 37 sounded like something to take literally. "Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong;...Trust in the LORD and do good;... Take delight in the LORD,...Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him." Those ellipses represent promises of prosperity, which again, I pick and choose, interpreting more as general ideals than iron-clad guarantees.

My 'take-home,' that which provides my framework of understanding this psalm, is this:
"Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil."

Do not fret about others; be patient; trust in the Lord and do good. Promises or not, this is what I need to hear -- and to heed. I don't like it because it's easy; I like it because it's right.

For today, that's my fish.


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