Thankfulness in the Present

Scriptures: Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7; 2 Timothy 2:8-15; Luke 17:11-19

Bulletin-TL 10-13-2019 YC P23

Let us pray:

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts guide our understanding, O Holy One. Nurture us we pray, as we grow into who you would fashion us to be. Amen.

Commentator Bruce Boak writes,

“Jeremiah challenges the Jews in captivity, and us, to embrace the place where God has us and find ways to be faithful in our living, so that others might inquire about our inspiration, our resolve, and our trust, and thereby be drawn into relationship with God.”[1]

“Drawn into relationship with God…” After my reflection last week on nurturing soul, doesn’t that just sound, well, divine?  I would love to be drawn into relationship with God.  Can you imagine what that is like? No brokenness, no falsehood, no artificial niceness or manipulating, no wheeling and dealing “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.”  Instead, being drawn into relationship with God means God is the initiator – not because God needs us or wants us or needs anything or wants anything but simply because it is God’s nature to reach out and love unconditionally.  What an amazing gift that would be. What does it look like to be drawn into relationship with God?  How does God reach out and initiate that drawing?  Is it like the still small voice Elijah hears in the cave?  Is it a deep feeling in our hearts of being strangely warmed like John Wesley? Or for our more pragmatic age, do we tend to miss the miraculous in our drive for scientific evidence?

In our story from Luke’s Gospel today, I wonder who was drawn into relationship with God most? The healed leper? Or the disciples who witnessed what Jesus did?  Those who heard it read for the first time? I wonder, if being drawn into relationship with God correlates to falling deeply into worship, as evidenced by the cleansed leper returning to Jesus shouting aloud praises to God?  I wonder, if in our daily lives, in ordinary places, at ordinary times, we can still find ourselves drawn into relationship with God?  Do we have to be healed miraculously?  Or can we stop for a moment, look up and stand transfigured by the sunlight shining through the changing colors of the leaves, giving them an unearthly glow even as a chill wind of fall begins to blow.  If we can do that, than perhaps the next step is a mustard seed’s worth of faith to crack the door to a deeper relationship – maybe even a deeper love – with our spouse, our children, our parents, our grandchildren, or even our Savior God in Jesus Christ.

“This week we are called to consider if we are the one or the nine. Are we giving thanks for present blessings while trusting God’s promises for the future? Are we enhancing the welfare of the [communities] in which we presently live? Are we praying for them? Are we keenly aware that our welfare is wrapped up in the welfare of the place we find ourselves, even if not by choice?

What are the ways we are called to enhance the good of the community in which we are immersed?”[2]

Like the Samaritan leper who was healed, let us live fully in the present, give thanks for all that Jesus has done to get us this far, and remember the Gospel lens that allows us to view our past, present, and future.

There are times, of course, when we do not feel the lens is enough. Take Paul’s letter to Timothy; in today’s reading, we find reference to his suffering. But was this inflicted from the outside or self-inflicted for a higher purpose on his own? Commentator Joseph Price suggests,

“[Paul’s] suffering results from his own binding of personal freedom in order to submit fully to the divine commands of ministry. In this way, Paul’s endurance of suffering is presented as a model for the building of personal character, especially for the teacher–preacher.

“2 Timothy distinguishes itself by directing Timothy in how to be a strong, canonical teacher. Drawing upon the pattern of Paul’s sanctification of suffering … the author exhorts Timothy, as a representative minister, to follow Paul’s model and to be “an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness” (vv. 24–25). In the climax of today’s passage, Timothy is urged to prepare himself to stand before God as one who, as a worker or teacher, “has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth” (v. 15). By emphasizing the obligation of the teacher to express the truth “with gentleness” (v. 25), the author also reflects the accepted Pauline injunction to speak “the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15).” [3]

I would submit that even though this is originally an injunction to a young preacher Paul is mentoring, it also stands for every person wishing to live a Christlike life. In all times we should strive to live peaceable lives, engaging one another the truth in gentleness and love. All of us are Christ’s ambassadors, living our lives to the best of our ability in line with God’s heavenly kingdom principles.

Perhaps that is also another way to look at Paul’s passage. He, too, was trying his best. Sometimes he may seem overbearing, and there are points in his writings that I feel that way, but in the end, if we take a step back, we might notice that we can be a little like Paul sometimes. Olive Elaine Hinnant remarked on that when commenting on this passage:

“Paul, at times, we can be self–focused. We worry about our work, the results, our successes or failures. If our work is raising children, we concern ourselves with their abilities in the world, if they will be accepted or rejected. Whether we are the head of a corporation or a teacher in a classroom, some days it feels as though the world rests on our shoulders. At times, we are tempted to list our accomplishments as if we have done them all alone. Complaining is one way we get to the bottom of our humanity, and there we come face to face with our strengths and weaknesses, our abilities and our limitations. It is a way of saying, “God, help me. … Paul wants Timothy to know he may suffer for the gospel as well. Paul reminds him and us that the gospel will not be bound, it will not lose its flavor, and it cannot be chained as he is.”[4]

May all glory be unto the One who lived and died and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? Let us pray:

“Thanks be to you, O God, that you have made us in the image of your own mystery. That in the soul of every human being there are depths beyond naming and heights greater than knowing.

“Grant us the grace of inner sight this day, that we may see you as the Self within all selves. Grant us the grace of love this day that amidst the pain and disfigurement of our own lives we may find the treasure that is unlocked by love and know the richness that lies buried in the human soul.”[5]

Questions for Reflection

In both the reading from Jeremiah and the reading from Luke, God is at work not only among the chosen people of Israel, but also among those considered enemies of Israel. God tells Israel to make its home among the Babylonians while in exile, seeking the welfare of the city to which they have been sent. Jesus heals a “double-outcast,” a man who is a Samaritan and a leper. Is there someone in your own life whom you feel is an “enemy” to you – or someone you would rather not be associated with for some reason? Who are enemies in a larger sphere (national, political, or social)? How can you “seek their welfare?” How may you, in faith, reach out to such a one?

Household Prayer: Morning

God of endings, of packing up, decisions of keeping and leaving, of saying goodbye, of the practice of closing and tidying, of moving the finality of distance between, of newness, of the lonely silence of emptiness. Grant me the strength to start over. Amen.

Household Prayer: Evening

Generous God: A day of worship, a day of rest. A day in community, a day to be blessed. A day for offering, a day for welcoming, A day of remembering, a day of reckoning. This is the day You, O Lord, made. Let me rejoice and now rest in it. Amen.

[1] Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Feasting on the Word – Year C, Volume 4: Season After Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ).

[2] Duffield, Jill. Presbyterian Outlook online weekly lectionary contributor, October 9 lectionary readings. © 2016 Used with permission

[3] Jospeh L. Price, “Theological Perspective, 2 Timothy 2:8-15” in Feasting on the Word – Year C, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

[4] Olive Elaine Hinnant, “Pastoral Perspective, 2 Timothy 2:8-15” in Feasting on the Word – Year C, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

[5] Adapted from Sounds of the Eternal: A Celtic Psalter


About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
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