So, here's the thing about living in a community of faith (at least in my very Lutheran tradition) ...
we're called to love one another, to bear one another's burdens and be present in each other's lives ... and we do so with the understanding that we are, simultaneously, saint and sinner. The people we are called to do life with will hurt us. They will blindly cater to their fears even when it means denying the opportunity to extend love to another in the form of trust despite fear.
It happens because we're all sinners. We all make mistakes. We are selfish and difficult and self-centered.
And yet because we know that we are all both (saint and sinner) we are called to continue to live in relationship with the very person who is prioritizing fear over love. Even when that causes us pain.
And sometimes that sucks (which, according to Bishop Eaton, IS a theological term).
Which brings me to the readings for today (if you didn't know there were readings for every day of the year, check out the Revised Common Lectionary Year B, it's a great way to get into the Bible every day without the pressure of reading the Bible in a year type of program. Worth checking out.)
The first reading is Numbers 6:22-27
The Priestly Benediction
22 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 23 Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them,
24 The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
27 So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.
If you've attended a traditional protestant worship service in the last couple of decades, you've probably heard these words spoken. So here's the thing ... in the Bible this blessing immediately follows a bunch of rules about how the Israelites were to set themselves apart from the surrounding culture.
In this particular time and place the way to set yourself apart was by your behavior. Through Moses, God provided the Israelites ways of behaving that set them apart as God's people.
Today's next reading is Mark 4:21-25
A Lamp under a Bushel Basket
21 He said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? 22 For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. 23 Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” 24 And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. 25 For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”
"The measure you give will be the measure you get." Could this be in reference to extending love and risking fear? Hard to tell. But as I ponder this verse tonight I cannot help but think that we are, always, encouraged to extend love in all circumstances.
Finally, Psalm 20
Prayer for Victory
To the leader. A Psalm of David.
1 The Lord answer you in the day of trouble!
The name of the God of Jacob [Israel] protect you!
2 May he send you help from the sanctuary,
and give you support from Zion.
3 May he remember all your offerings,
and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices. Selah
4 May he grant you your heart’s desire,
and fulfill all your plans.
5 May we shout for joy over your victory,
and in the name of our God set up our banners.
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions.
6 Now I know that the Lord will help his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven
with mighty victories by his right hand.
7 Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses,
but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God.
8 They will collapse and fall,
but we shall rise and stand upright.
9 Give victory to the king, O Lord;
answer us when we call.
So, here's the thing. God will be by your side. The Lord will protect you. It doesn't say that God will spare you all harm, pain and trouble and bring your heart's desire RIGHT NOW.
But the victory will be HIS.
And if God is love, as demonstrated by Christ on the cross ...
Then love will win and fear will be defeated.
So, as people of the Resurrection, we live knowing that love will defeat fear, our geeky terminology for it is that we live in the "now but not yet."
And we remember that in Christ, God has defeated sin and death ... all fear.
Yet on earth we still live in the midst of heaven not yet realized.
So, if we want to see that glimpse of love when we are surrounded by a culture of fear, we must respond to fear with love.
And that is far more difficult than the set of rules God asked the Israelites to live by. At least they had a measuring stick ... good enough ----> not good enough.
In Christ that measuring stick is gone. We are simply saved, by grace. And we are called to respond to that amazing saving grace in our love and care for the world around us, full of sinner/saints.
So, we are still set apart, like the Israelites but so very differntly.
"And they will know us by our love ..."
Which means that grace is, truly, the biggest kind of brave.