Sunday, August 21, 2011

Careful What You Wish For: Year A, Ordinary 22

This Week's Lectionary Texts
Exodus 3:1-15 or Jeremiah 15:15-21
Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45b or Psalm 26:1-8

Romans 12:9-21
Matthew 16:21-28

This Week's Reflection
How many times have we wished to have an experience as dramatic as Moses' with the burning bush? My version is to say, "If only God would email me with clear instructions!" But, Moses got the ancient version of my wish - clear instructions from God that just so happened to come out of the midst of a bush that was on fire.

Jeremiah had a personal dialogue with God too. He had a specific question that he wanted answered, "I've been doing everything right and I still suffer. Why? And, when are you going to do something about it?" And while ultimately God answered to say that Jeremiah will be taken care of, the answer starts with "If you turn back." What? What does Jeremiah need to turn back from? Haven't we just been told that he was doing everything right which is why he wants to know why he must suffer so?

Romans is pretty self-explanatory, unless you have problems loving people who aren't so lovable and doing good when everyone else around you is doing evil.

In the Matthew text, Jesus is explaining how he will suffer, die, and be resurrected. Peter can't handle the truth. Peter, who only verses earlier had declared, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!" Peter now treats Jesus as if he is a child. The text says that he rebukes Jesus as in how we might rebuke our children when they use inappropriate language or tones.

We want clear messages from God. We long for "burning bush moments," but are we truly ready for the message that will come? For Moses the message was, "go back to the place where you are wanted for murder, be a spokesperson even though you are a horrible public speaker, and fight Pharaoh, likely the most powerful man in the world." Jeremiah wanted answers for suffering. Instead, God said, "Get back to what is really important! Stop worrying about self. Do right and I'll take care of you." (Of course, God doesn't promise that this will be a suffering free life.) And Peter wanted to be the Messiah's right hand man, but what he learns that means is that he too must pick up his cross, deny himself, and give up his own life.

We wish for clear messages from God all the time. We long to see God, to know God, to have a moment when a bush blazes in flame and yet does not burn. We seek signs that call our attention to God's messages for us. We long to hear the voice of God speak to us in the deep baritone of Charlton Heston. At least, we say we do. I wonder what I would do if the email actually came. I wonder how I would take the clear instructions from God that call me to give up my life for others. I wonder if my wish came true if I would be sorry I ever asked for such a thing.

Messages from God send us into places that we don't necessarily wish to go. And, there are no promises that going will be a life without suffering. And, even so, we search for the clear instructions of God. We seek God's voice. We seek understanding and truth. And, we receive the messages, though they may not come to us like Moses or Peter. We receive the message and with the Psalmist we sing, "O give thanks to the LORD, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples. Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wonderful works. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually. Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered, O offspring of his servant Abraham, children of Jacob, his chosen ones. Praise the Lord!"

This Week's Artwork
(in order of appearance in the reflection)
Message from God by unknown
The Light of the Bush by Janie Welsh
the burning of the bush by He Qi
moses and the burning bush by Fred Paddock