Goodness me — it’s Thursday again! Last Sunday we gathered @ 9AM — well done for all of us. We opened in prayer (perhaps after some kindhearted banter about how old different folks were!) and then because we were staying with the same (challenging) text from last week, we read & heard our scripture: Romans 13:1-10.
Of course the words of the scripture from the week prior did not change (though the translation we heard read might have!). Yet we had been sitting with, considering, and asking the Holy Spirit to speak with us about these verses. At least a third of us gathered around the table did not share. Others apologised for emotion they thought would be rejected — which (and this makes my heart so full of joy) was immediately responded with we love you! And the important insight and distinction about what God allows (permissive will) as compared with God’s perfect will. An example that was not named last Sunday might be useful, prophets vs. kings. God’s perfect will in the Old Testament was to raise up various prophets and leaders for the people, compared with the desire (they whined) of the people to have a king, God’s permissive will allowed for kings.
Here, I pray you allow me a(n extended) moment. We did something different, atypical from our usual rhythm. We discussed the same 10 verses two weeks in a row. Some made comments to me that this text is hard. Others made comments about the challenge of speaking about “political” things. Scripture is one of the ways that God speaks to us, to each of us willing to open God’s word and allow the Holy Spirit to give us understanding as to what is being said. And the texts (MANY of them!) are not easy. If we read closely what Jesus said and did — we find he is challenging! (Seriously, who wants to invite Jesus over for dinner?!) The world we live in is fallen and broken, and yes God is still moving in the chaos of our lives….BUT, life is hard. And scripture (and GOD) does not try to ignore this. The folks who were the religious authorities when Jesus was walking the earth (and they were sincerely faithful folks) quoted the Old Testament to Christ (to the Word made flesh!) — think on how absurd that is….quoting scripture to Jesus…I mention that to say, folks have been using the Word of God to make points or to highlight certain agendas since we’ve had scripture. And this is still true. When we gather, when we consider the (always!) challenging Word of God together, I encourage us to wrestle with our own understanding(s), to wrestle with God (or to let the Holy Spirit wrestle with us!), to wrestle to allow this living Word to speak to us & be written in our hearts & transform us! — not to wrestle with each other. Each person — each voice — around the table is a beloved child of God, is our sibling in Christ, is just as beautiful and loved and flawed and sinful as each of us.
Our homework this week is to pen a prayer for the authorities — a prayer that is faithful to our own voice and to God. And the hope is that some will be willing to share these prayers. Some might pray for our government (locally and or nationally). Some might pray for God’s divine law to prevail. Some might pray for the church (ecclesial) authorities in place in the PC(USA) or in ecumenical bodies. I took a moment to remind us all that when we pray we too become changed (and didn’t we think about praying for our enemies a couple of months back? — so even if some consider those in authority to be an enemy, alas we are still to pray!).
But I will end today with a prayer for us all — that we would have courage to come to the table, knowing God calls us to come as we are — and that God calls EACH OF US to come. May we have the courage to listen to each other, especially when we do not agree or do not understand. May we listen well and seek to understand before seeking to be understood. May we be open to sharing humbly, and discerning together what God is saying. And all God’s people said, “Amen.”
In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater