1st Scripture Reading: Joel 2:23-32 & Psalm 65
“I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent against you.”
So we know, don’t we, that there are good years and bad years – anyone who gardens or farms knows that there are cycles of weather, and of insect infestations. We instinctively expect that if this year was not a good year for tomatoes, then maybe next year will be better.
If the tent caterpillars are really bad this year, then we are pretty sure they will be less numerous next year, because there is a seven year cycle during which their numbers gradually increase and then their population collapses. And we know that these nasty bugs are part of God’s creation – part of our ecosystem – which is beautifully if incomprehensibly balanced if we don’t interfere too much.
This is God’s wondrous world, and as hard as we try, we do not completely understand the mystery of it. Can we live with that? Can we accept the wonder of it – in the good and the bad years? And can we accept God’s hand in it all without blaming God? Can we accept responsibility when our own actions disrupt the intricate harmony of the world around us?
Can we learn from reflecting on the consequences of what we have done and are doing, people of God?
Hymn # 174 MV “Soil of God”
2nd Scripture Reading: 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18 & Luke 18:9-14
I find the juxtaposition of these two readings fascinating! Jesus challenges his followers in the parable about the Pharisee, a respected religious leader, and the tax collector, to examine themselves for personal pride and intolerance toward others with less social stature.
“For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
And then I turn to second Timothy and read this famous passage attributed to the Apostle Paul. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day…”
Now many would agree with Paul that he has earned the reward in heaven that he seems so sure will be his – but how does this self-aggrandisement fit with what Jesus says in the parable from Luke? Is Paul not exalting himself? Is he not being just a little presumptuous?
Do any of us have any idea how we will be dealt with or even what we will be dealt with after death? Can we admit, even to ourselves that we don’t know? Can we live with uncertainty, sure only of the faith we have in God’s love, and trusting that following the Way of Jesus is the best way to live our lives in harmony with that dictum to love our neighbours as we must love ourselves.
Confusing as the scriptures often seem to be, we find assurance in them that we are loved, we are forgiven, we are sought out even when we are lost and broken. We are all children of a God who is awesome, unlimited, and unconditional Divine Love. We are indeed the product of that Divine Love. Just as you are my friend, just as I am, we are the Beloved.
Hymn #508 VU “Just as I am”