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April 30, 2017, 7:10 AM

Keep Up the Good Work Part 2

by Sandy Bach

13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad.[b] 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth,[c] who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.[d] Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah[e] should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us[f] while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.  (Luke 24:13-35 NRSV)

Ask a silly question, get a silly answer.

Cleopas and his unnamed companion were thunderstruck at Jesus’ question.

“So, what’s going on?” Jesus asks them. “What are you discussing?”
“Really?” they respond. “You have to ask? Where have you been hiding out?”

Ask a silly question…
Or is it?

When have you been asked a simple question that led to serious, even helpful, conversation? Ask the recently widowed how they’re doing seems a ludicrous question. You know the answer, already. They’re doing pretty awful. But, the question is meant to open up the conversation; to say that you care enough to ask and that you may even be willing to listen.

Jesus asks them a question to open up the conversation. Their answer is telling:
Not, “Our hero is dead. Poor us.”
Not an expression of uncontrolled anger.

Rather, they make a statement of faith:
Jesus of Nazareth, a prophet mighty in deed before God and all the people;
he was arrested, tried, convicted, and was crucified.
This is the third day and word is out that he’s risen.

And with that answer, Jesus knows where to meet them and he begins to interpret their faith statement in light of scripture. Jesus “came near and went with them.” When have you come near and gone with someone?

Chuck McCarthy doesn’t walk dogs. He walks people. In an article posted at “TheGuardian.com” author Rory Carroll writes that Chuck is trying to make a few extra dollars while he gets his acting career off the ground. He advertises to walk with people. He says it takes an ability to “walk, talk and, above all, listen.”

He charges $7.00 a mile. He has homemade flyers attached to lamp posts that read the following:

“Need motivation to walk? Scared to walk alone at night? Don’t like walking alone at all? Don’t want people to see you walking alone and just assume you have no friends? Don’t like listening to music or podcasts but can’t walk alone in silence, forced to face thoughts of the unknown future, or your own insignificance in the ever expanding universe?” (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/sep/14/los-angeles-people-walker-chuck-mccarthy)

Chuck McCarthy walks and listens. He says it’s mostly surface conversation, nothing all that deep. Still, it can be therapeutic. People are slipping their smart phones in their pockets and going for a walk AND talking. They’re engaging in real conversation.

Ask a silly question, you may end up in a deeply satisfying conversation that touches your very soul.

On the other hand, asking a silly question may build a bridge.

Let’s go back to Jesus’ question.

“So, what’s going on? What are you discussing?”

In addition to an Affirmation of Faith, they provide a clue to how they’re feeling:
“But, we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.”  The disappointment drips off the page.
“Some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning… they reported back to us about a vision of angels who said that he was alive.”  Their confusion runs deep.

Jesus knows where they are and knows where to take the conversation.

As Jesus talked with them, their hearts burned within them. This so-called stranger who joined them out of nowhere opened their minds and hearts to a new way of thinking. He connected with their disappointment. He linked scripture to the occurrences of the past few years.

Most of all he gave them hope.

This wasn’t the end. It was the beginning.

God hadn’t died. God wasn’t deserting them.

So, good for you…
When you stop in your tracks to listen. Really listen.

Good for you…
When you share a bit of yourself because someone needs a good word.

Good for you…
When you use your words to build a bridge instead of a wall.

Good for you…
When you ask a silly question that leads to healing conversation.

Keep up the good work. Because you’re traveling the Way of Jesus.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.

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April 23, 2017, 12:00 AM

Keep Up the Good Work Part 1

by Sandy Bach

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin[a]), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:19-29)

If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

Or so the saying goes. If that deal is too good to be true, check the fine print. Very likely, there’s a "gotcha" in there somewhere.

Christ is risen from the grave. Christ is alive. It’s way too good to be true. We need more than one witness to testify to his resurrection. And we get them: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, Peter, the Beloved Disciple…

We also have Thomas. In fact, we need Thomas. Thomas is us. Sometimes Thomas was courageous, sometimes confused, and today, he doubts. Yet, these are the things that brought him to believing.

We need Thomas to point the way through courage and confusion and especially doubt.

Remember when Jesus left Judea because the people wanted to stone him? His good friend Lazarus died, so he announced his intention to go to Bethany, a short distance from Jerusalem. His disciples tried to hold him back. When they were unsuccessful, it was Thomas who said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:16b NRSV)

He was a mix of courage and foolish. Unwilling to leave Jesus’ side, he voluntarily accompanied Jesus into potential danger.

My mother demonstrated courage the day she decided to stay in a Sunday school class despite the fact that her teacher behaved like a jerk.

They were studying a book by a progressive theologian, Marcus Borg. In his book he stated that in his extensive reading and study, he disagreed with the concept of the virgin birth among other things. The teacher presented the material as matter of obvious fact and anyone who questioned it was obviously ignorant.

I explained to Mom that this was one person’s opinion; that the Greek word for virgin meant “young woman.” I left it up to her to come to her own conclusion.

A few weeks later we talked about her class some more. “Why don’t you find another class?” I asked her.

“Because, despite the fact that teacher is doing a lousy job, I’m engaged with some of the concepts the author offers.”

“Do you agree with him?”

“No, not necessarily. But he’s helping me understand what I do believe.”

A courageous moment could be a foolish decision, but it’s an opportunity for incite to see, “my Lord and my God."

Bible reading is confusing. That’s probably why there is such a low Biblical literacy rate. Does Genesis have one long creation story or two shorter ones? What’s the deal with God telling Abraham to sacrifice his only son?  Is the Bible a factual, scientific document or a series of stories that seek to reveal God to us?

When I finally engaged with the Bible I discovered a lot of things that disturbed me. The more I studied, the more I changed.  My views on life changed; my politics changed.   And it scared me.  Every time I learned something new or viewed a beloved scripture in a new way I was afraid I’d lose my faith.

It would have been easier to give up. It would have been less faith shattering; less unnerving; less courageous; less confusing. But, I learned to embrace and look forward to new ideas and new concepts in interpretation. I learned that doubting is good; that skepticism is good. It led me to moments of fresh incite where I fell to my knees saying, “My Lord and my God.”

Courage. Confusion. Doubt. They are who Thomas was and we need him to point us in the right direction.

Thomas is often referred to as, “Doubting Thomas.” When you read this text you see that Jesus appeared two times. Once without Thomas present and once with him present. Both times he displayed his wounds. Both times he said, “Peace be with you.”

Jesus didn’t chastise.  Our brains are wired to be skeptical without proof. We can’t help it. In fact, we need it for survival.

So, for us to believe, we need the witness of Thomas and the disciples. They saw the wounds; they saw the risen Jesus. They report it to us so that we can believe without seeing.

That’s the “Way of Jesus.” Being a disciple of Jesus, we find ourselves moving through the messiness of courage and confusion and doubting and believing. We can’t really help it. It’s a part of who we are. It’s our faith journey. We need courage to move forward when we’re in doubt and confusion. We need doubt and confusion to deepen our faith. When our faith deepens, God comes closer and we have those oh so awesome moments of incite.

That's when we fall to our knees, saying, “My Lord and my God.”

And we fall in love with the Master, again.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.




April 9, 2017, 12:00 AM

Jesus Journeys for Us

by Sandy Bach

21 1-3 When they neared Jerusalem, having arrived at Bethphage on Mount Olives, Jesus sent two disciples with these instructions: “Go over to the village across from you. You’ll find a donkey tethered there, her colt with her. Untie her and bring them to me. If anyone asks what you’re doing, say, ‘The Master needs them!’ He will send them with you.”

4-5 This is the full story of what was sketched earlier by the prophet:

Tell Zion’s daughter,
“Look, your king’s on his way,
    poised and ready, mounted
On a donkey, on a colt,
    foal of a pack animal.”

6-9 The disciples went and did exactly what Jesus told them to do. They led the donkey and colt out, laid some of their clothes on them, and Jesus mounted. Nearly all the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him a royal welcome. Others cut branches from the trees and threw them down as a welcome mat. Crowds went ahead and crowds followed, all of them calling out, “Hosanna to David’s son!” “Blessed is he who comes in God’s name!” “Hosanna in highest heaven!”

10 As he made his entrance into Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken. Unnerved, people were asking, “What’s going on here? Who is this?”

11 The parade crowd answered, “This is the prophet Jesus, the one from Nazareth in Galilee.”  (Matthew 21:1-11 The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson)

Many of you may remember the rock opera, “Jesus Christ Superstar.” I can still hear those lyrics as I imagine Jesus descending from Mt. Olives into the Kidron Valley and to the gates of Jerusalem.

In this scene, the crowd lines each side of the road calling out to Jesus:

"Hosanna Heysanna Sanna Sanna Ho
Sanna Hey Sanna Ho Sanna
Hey J C, J C won't you smile at me?
Sanna Ho Sanna Hey Superstar"  (http://www.lyricsdepot.com/jesus-christ-superstar/hosanna.html)

Later they call out the same words of joy and add,
"Hey J C, J C you’re alright by me!"

Here he comes. Making his way into Jerusalem. He is the son of David; son of God.  Jesus continues descending from the Mount joyfully, laughing and touching the crowds.

God is always doing a new thing. Creation and re-creation; judgement with grace; hope out of hopelessness.

This Lenten season, we’ve examined “Life’s Continuing Journey.” We are tempted and fall because of it. We answer God’s call to go to a new place but not without God. Life seems barren and hopeless until God calls us to a place of promise and hope.

We fall into slavery. God provides freedom and a new way of life. Just when we think God has given up on us, leadership and promise arrive in the most unexpected way.

In the valley of death, we receive second chances and community steps in to unbind us and set us free.

We’re on a journey, you and I and the rest of humanity. A journey in salvation and promise and renewal. It isn’t an easy journey. It requires help and assistance from each other. It requires God.

It’s a journey into salvation.

Today we watch salvation move toward us. He’s on a donkey and colt, symbol of Judah, ancestor of David. He rides on animals that symbolize peace rather than horses of war and death.

The crowds cry out as if in one voice: Hosanna! Save Now!

Come down from Mt Olives like the prophet Zechariah promised. Restore us. Redeem us.

Today is the day we’ve been waiting for. Since the beginning of time we have looked forward to God coming down from Mt Olive into Jerusalem. God, our king, is arriving and all will be well.

The crowds spread cloaks and branches on the road, a welcome befitting a king. Rome stands by and watches. The religious elite stand by and watch.

The crowd welcomes him. This crowd has been building throughout Matthew’s story. And here they are, lining the road from the Mount down into the Kidron Valley and up to Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is in turmoil.  Jerusalem trembles. The trembling won't stop until it is finished.  This is the beginning of the worst week in history.  Jesus’ authority will be questioned; Jesus’ parables will be sharper and the imagery more cloudy to those without ears to listen or eyes to see.  And Jerusalem will tremble.

Jesus will shame the Temple leaders; he’ll pass all the tests on Torah that are flung his way. He’ll foretell the fall of the great Lord’s Temple and his warning will be dire.

The trembling won’t abate.   It will mount, day by day.

"Hey JC, JC, won’t you fight for me?"

"Hey JC, JC, won’t you die for me?"

We can’t do it without you. Hosanna. Save now.

Hosanna has judged us guilty. Hosanna has pronounced the sentence: death. Hosanna knows we can’t save ourselves. So he comes down from the judge’s bench, riding symbols of Judah and David and shalom. Hosanna comes down and removes his robes and takes our place.

Hey JC, won’t you die for me?

Yes. In just a few days.

He'll be betrayed and denied.  He'll be tried and beaten.  He'll die a horrible death.

The trembling will become deafening. The earth will move. The curtain will be torn from top to bottom.  Even the rocks will split and the sun will hide in the darkness.

All because God chose to put on skin, enter into this God-hating world and take the punishment we so richly deserve.

Hosanna will die for you and me and the world.

No wonder Jerusalem trembles.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.




April 2, 2017, 12:00 AM

Say the Word

by Sandy Bach

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was...

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles[e] away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[f] Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world..."

Jesus Raises Lazarus to Life38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” ... he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”  (John 11:1-45 NRSV)

 

She hadn’t felt well for weeks.  The doctors couldn’t figure it out.  She was tired and rundown.  She was depressed and weepy.  She could barely get out of bed in the morning.  They ran a battery of tests. Finally, a result came back that made sense. She had mononucleosis. A virus commonly associated with college kids, only she was 40 years old.

She was sent home to bed rest for 30 days. It was a relief to know what was wrong and that she’d be okay, so she followed doctor’s orders to the letter. Sure enough, within 30 days she was back at work and regaining her strength and stamina.

Two months later she returned to the doctor. Same symptoms as before. This time the diagnosis was quicker in arriving. She had chronic fatigue symptom. She was sent home for another 30-day sick leave.

She didn’t care. She was neither angry nor sad. She was numb from feeling so lousy for so long. And that’s when she died a Lazarus death.

It was years later that she called it a Lazarus death. She believes today that she needed renewal and resuscitation and revival. She needed what only Jesus could give her: life.

For days and weeks, she sat in her favorite chair with no radio or TV; no books or magazines. She sat there reviewing her life. It wasn’t a conscious action on her part. It occurred after she prayed to God, “I don’t believe you caused this virus. But, I believe you want to use it for a purpose. I’m too tired to fight you or the virus. Have your own way.”

She didn’t like herself much. She had become the businesswoman she had vowed not to be: angry, proud, looking for a battle at every meeting. Bitter, even mean. This wasn’t her and slowly as the days passed, she felt different. She wanted to do things differently. She wanted to be a proper reflection of a Child of God.

Her return to work took about 45 days. Her resurrection about a year. She found friends who stepped in to unbind her and set her free. She became a woman who cared about others and learned to view life in new ways.

The name, Lazarus, means, “God helps.” When have you been a Lazarus? Or when have you met Lazarus and helped unbind him?

Lazarus is the one who’s meaning in life is corrupted. Lazarus is bound by the things of this world that have little meaning to most, but Lazarus believes them crucial to life.

Lazarus can be socially dead. The workaholic who can’t let go of his job for even a weekend of rest. Lazarus is found among the spiritually  or the emotionally dead. He is in need of nurture. He is filled with self-doubt, or he’s placed on the edges of society to fend for himself. He is the oppressed.

Lazarus dies because he tried to do everything for himself without allowing others in. Lazarus dies because others judge him to be not good enough, not the right color, not the right religion, or not the right credentials.

Lazarus needs to be unbound and set free. Lazarus needs us to cut those bandages that bind him. And Lazarus needs community to help tear away fear and anxiety and loss and grief.

Lazarus is the hail-fellow-once-met who everyone loves. Except for Lazarus who is convinced that he’s unlovable, even by God.

Lazarus is the worn out single mother trying to make ends meet day after day. She’s tired of being judged lazy, so she reaches out for help only when she can’t do it herself.

Lazarus finds life-made-new in community that empathizes even if it can’t relate. He finds new reality because the community shows him a better way and loves him even when he can’t love himself.

We are that life-giving community when we take some time to talk with another who just needs a listening ear.

We are the life-giving community because we know and understand the power of prayer. We know who we are and we know our limits. We know God’s call on our hearts to help others.

We are the life-giving community who craves to do more and prays for a door to open. We’re the life-giving community when we shake a stranger’s hand, not knowing any of their pain, but perhaps passing along something meaningful, anyway.

During this Lenten period we have been on a “Journey to Salvation.” We began in God’s Garden of Eden where we couldn’t stop ourselves from entering into temptation. We knew then that we needed a savior.

So God called Abram and Sarai to begin this journey with a journey of their own. A journey out of hopelessness to a new beginning that only God knew about. Their hopelessness became hope and though they stumbled often, they managed to be the vessel that created a great nation.

But, we found ourselves in slavery and God helped us out over and over again. God provided protection from enemies, food and sweet water. When we became parched and dry, we cried out again and God, once again, provided living water.

Meanwhile, God kept doing new things. One of them was choosing a leader for Israel from the least and the last. We learned to turn our fears of lacking what God needs into rejoicing that we are, indeed, enough.

And this week, we journey into death that brings new life.

What will you do with what you’ve learned these past weeks? How will you respond to the God of new beginnings; the God who brings hope out of hopelessness; the God who provides greatness out of the least and the last; the God who brings new life out of death?

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.




March 26, 2017, 12:00 AM

Open Your Eyes

by Sandy Bach

16  God addressed Samuel: “So, how long are you going to mope over Saul? You know I’ve rejected him as king over Israel. Fill your flask with anointing oil and get going. I’m sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I’ve spotted the very king I want among his sons.”

2-3 “I can’t do that,” said Samuel. “Saul will hear about it and kill me.”

God said, “Take a heifer with you and announce, ‘I’ve come to lead you in worship of God, with this heifer as a sacrifice.’ Make sure Jesse gets invited. I’ll let you know what to do next. I’ll point out the one you are to anoint.”

Samuel did what God told him. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the town fathers greeted him, but apprehensively. “Is there something wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong. I’ve come to sacrifice this heifer and lead you in the worship of God. Prepare yourselves, be consecrated, and join me in worship.” He made sure Jesse and his sons were also consecrated and called to worship.

When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Here he is! God’s anointed!”

But God told Samuel, “Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature. I’ve already eliminated him. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart.”

Jesse then called up Abinadab and presented him to Samuel. Samuel said, “This man isn’t God’s choice either.”

Next Jesse presented Shammah. Samuel said, “No, this man isn’t either.”

10 Jesse presented his seven sons to Samuel. Samuel was blunt with Jesse, “God hasn’t chosen any of these.”

11 Then he asked Jesse, “Is this it? Are there no more sons?”

“Well, yes, there’s the runt. But he’s out tending the sheep.”

Samuel ordered Jesse, “Go get him. We’re not moving from this spot until he’s here.”

12 Jesse sent for him. He was brought in, the very picture of health—bright-eyed, good-looking.

God said, “Up on your feet! Anoint him! This is the one.”

13 Samuel took his flask of oil and anointed him, with his brothers standing around watching. The Spirit of God entered David like a rush of wind, God vitally empowering him for the rest of his life.

Samuel left and went home to Ramah.

(I Samuel 16:1-13 "The Message" C pyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

This is a drama fit for the stage.  There's action and emotion and lots of questions.  Most of all, we see God actively involved in the narrative.

First, God tells Samuel to quit grieving over Saul, the first anointed king over Israel. Samuel had anointed him. But it was God who told him to do it.  Sadly, Saul didn’t fare well. He failed to put his trust in God. His own agenda got in the way and eventually Samuel had to tell Saul that he’s lost Israel.

As harsh as Samuel was with Saul, he grieved mightily. After a period of time, God tells Samuel that it’s time to move on. That God is doing a new thing in Israel.

Then, God sends Samuel to Bethlehem to Jesse’s home. It’s a dangerous mission. If Saul gets word, he can have Samuel killed. God does an end run around this by telling Samuel to hold a worship service.

The strangest part of this, though, is how God chooses the next king. Samuel is certain that Eliab, Jesse’s eldest son is the one to anoint. He’s tall, like Saul, he’s handsome. He looks like a king!

But, no. Eliab isn’t the one. Nor is the second-born, the third-born, or the fourth-born. It’s getting tiresome. The action is beginning wane.  We need someone to anoint.  Did Samuel feel foolish? And how did these sons feel? One strapping young man rejected after another. Jesse parades each one before Samuel like a beauty contest or a horse show. Nope. These won’t do.

They won’t do, because God’s sight isn’t Samuel’s. God’s sight isn’t skin deep. God’s sight takes in all of the person: heart, mind, and soul. God sees all of it: our emotions, our ability to discern, our commitment, our intelligence, our wisdom and our character.

I could use a bit of that insight. And I trust you could, as well. We look at a black teenager wearing a hoodie. Whether we mean it or not, we wonder if he’s up to no good.

A dark-complexioned man is speaking English with a thick Hispanic accent. We assume he’s an undocumented immigrant.

A teenager with tattoos and all manner of piercings walks past you in the store. Is she on drugs?

We didn’t get up this morning planning to judge others in this harsh light. After all, we sit in church every Sunday morning vowing to love God and neighbor. The problem is, we watch the news. The news is troubling. We learn that we must be careful. Next thing we know, we’re afraid of anyone who doesn’t look and act like us.

Samuel’s eyesight isn’t any better. He’s stuck on looks and stature. He’s stuck in the past, looking for an improved version of Saul.

God’s vision is for something new. Someone new. Someone who’s heart is in the right place, who will trust in God and discern God’s vision.

The problem is, it’s son number eight. Often in scripture the number “seven” means completeness or perfection. For example, seven lamps in the tabernacle where God is worshiped; Joshua led a march around Jericho seven times; Jesus told his disciples to forgive not “seven” times but “seven times seventy.”

Jesse has a complete family with his seven sons. There’s a stray kid out in the pasture minding the sheep. He’s the youngest, probably unimpressive. Samuel calls a halt to the selection process and waits for this young boy to be brought in.

We wait with Samuel. We wait for our Messiah to return and make all things new. We wait for God to reject that which we would reject and bless that which we would bless.

Finally, he arrives. Unlikely as it is, God chooses him. Only after he’s anointed do we get to know his name.  David.

How’s your eyesight? Are you, like Samuel, judging the outside appearance? Or are you trying to see others through the eyes of God?

Is it blurred by a tumultuous heart? What does God see in you? Is it good enough for God?

So what if you aren’t good enough? That’s not what’s important. What’s important is that God loves you. God loves you and sees everything: guilt, shame, prejudice, bias; joy, laughter, hope. God sees it all and loves us anyway.

Did your family tell you that you weren’t good enough? To God, you’re more than enough.

Are you working hard to keep God loving you? Stop and rest for a while. Let God be God; let God in.

Are you busy trying to prove yourself? Let it go. You have nothing to prove because God sees all and knows all and loves you anyway.

Theologian, Paul Tillich was fond of saying that “faith is the courage to accept acceptance.”  (http://people.bu.edu/wwildman/tillich/resources/review_tillich-paul_couragetobe.htm)

“…the courage to accept acceptance.” How would that look in your life? To accept that God accepts you as you are? That you don’t earn God’s love? That you don’t work to be acceptable to God?

I read the 23rd Psalm through a different set of eyes this week. There is nothing in this Psalm for me to do but to rest, to be nourished and to know that I walk with God daily, even through the dark valley. And eventually my eyes see that light that Christ brought into the world.

It's a drama fit for a, well for a king.  It's a drama with an important message for you and me.  Let God be God.  Let God's voice overpower those internal voices that try to tell you you're less than okay.

God is always doing a new thing.  God needs you to accomplish it.

Take notice this week.  How has God called you?  Where has God called you?

Enter into this new week with eyes wide open.

Wide open with the lens of God to shape your faith.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.


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