My friends, it would be hard to miss the notion this week in our Scriptures that, “Our God is for us!” Beginning with Jeremiah, it is clear that the life of a prophet is not an easy undertaking, especially if one is going to respond to the invitation with any amount of zeal. It is not a job one seeks out, but one that a person is asked to do by our loving God. Once asked, and if the prophet accepts; they will always have God at their back as is evidenced by Jeremiah’s words, “Our God is with me like a mighty champion.”
In the pain of the call, Jeremiah implores God for justice, and rightly so. The injustice that life sometimes gives to those who try to live and act justly toward all or to those who suffer because others fail to be open to their needs; the psalmist tells us—God will always hear their cries—the cry of the poor, and in turn implore one of us to help!
The gospel for today’s liturgy is part of a longer teaching that Jesus gave his apostles before sending them out in twos to teach and to give back that which they, he said, “had been freely given.” I think the overriding idea that we, as followers of our brother Jesus want to hold onto, in conjunction with carrying on his work in the world, of being “bread”—his body, as we discussed last week, is that we would not fear. Jesus tells us, [do not fear anything!] Again, we get the message that our God has our backs—ultimately!
The nugget that I would take from Paul’s letter selection for today to the Romans is that, [grace abounds for all.] I think in the past; we have spent too much time on the first part of this reading—the idea “that sin entered the world” and in the old translations, who it was who was responsible for bringing it in [women]! We got stuck there and never moved on to the best part, that God’s grace “abounds for all of us” and that no matter what jams we get into being “bread for the world,” our Abba God’s grace–the very life of God, for that is what “grace” is, will be with us!
It’s good to remember that the notion of being imperfect or “sinful” is part of what makes us human and according to Paul, our imperfections only became “sins” when formal laws were created! Being imperfect is part of the definition of what it is to be human—we live, we try to love, we get sick, we make mistakes and we die—it’s all part of the human package. Certainly, we can choose to rise above our imperfections becoming our best selves, both for our good and the good of others and it would seem this would be our God’s wish for us to become ever more, as we were created–the image of God.
I take time to spell this out because usual exegesis doesn’t always let us know that our God loves us in our imperfections, our failings and our sorrows—caused sometimes by ourselves, sometimes by others. Our good God doesn’t call us to beat our breasts, proclaiming that, as a friend once said, “We are scum; we are truly scum,” but that more so; we are made in God’s image and that we need to more often proclaim this piece and keep striving after that goodness. This is what God loves, that we keep trying!
So, what has my week brought that speaks to all of this? I was with my friend Alice for much of the past week catching up on each other’s lives, resting, enjoying some good food—that we didn’t have to prepare, some antiquing—delighting in what each of us found that would enhance our respective homes, and sharing some programming, that both challenged and delighted us.
As I reflect back on these days with a good friend—a soul mate, really; I realize that I witnessed the face of God in the beauty that my friend has created in her flower gardens, in the fun we had, staying in our “jammies” till noon, sipping coffee, laughing about old times, looking forward to all that comes next!
In all of this, from doing some joint exegesis and planning for today’s liturgy and homily which we both needed to prepare, to sharing the work of an artist one evening at the local museum in West Bend, WI where Alice lives and the artist originated too, aspects of our good God were present to me—beauty, goodness, compassion .
The artist, whose interest lies in historical period dress and adornment, spoke to us of a Wisconsin family from the late 19th and early 20th Centuries whose later generations shared the complete saved wardrobe of their great grandmother with him for historical purposes. Many of the dresses needed to be restructured and/or repaired to vintage condition, as time had its toll on them, which he did, and his ability to do so, coupled with his work uncovering the story of this family through saved letters, cards and newspaper clippings was most fascinating to me. It turned out that this family lived in Marshfield, Wisconsin where my grandmother on my Dad’s side, lived. One got a sense of how important, “family” was to this historical group of people. I have often wished that my Dad’s family had saved more historical pieces like this. The study of history has always been important to me because it tells us so much about, who we were, and how we have progressed or not into the future.
My time with my friend also brought us to discussions of our present times, of all the needs of the People of God in our nation and world—in our Church. We tried not to dwell on this “unfinished” business too much, perhaps remembering Jesus’ words, “The poor will always be with you,” taking the much needed rest we both required.
In our work, all of us, in the ways we live our calls to be prophets, priests, followers of Jesus, the Christ, for the good of all; we must take times away to fill our own cups, so as to be ever more consistently, our best selves—bread—Jesus’ body, in our world.
And if we remember his words, “Don’t be afraid,” and have faith that indeed our God has our backs, that will be all that we need to do great things in our world! Amen? Amen!