Today’s Scriptures: From the Book of Common Prayer
Psalm 63, 98, 103
Acts 22:30 – 23:11
How should we respond in hopeless situations?
Over the past year, the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movements in various cities captured headlines and created enough discordance that more and more people have joined those questioning the practice of those labeled by OWS as the elite in finance and wealth. As some of the largest gatherings since the anti-Vietnam rallies in the 60’s and 70’s, OWS has come to symbolize a disenfranchised group speaking out against injustice perpetrated by an elite few. The scriptures in today’s selections present similar situations where those speaking out for a cause were (or seemed to be) in a position of weakness.
Joshua offers us a passage taking up the middle of the story. For six days the Israelites had marched around the city of Jericho with no effect. On the seventh day of repeating the same task, a few additional duties were added. The priests were to blow the horns and the entire army yell. Those simple additions changed the entire outcome. The walls came tumbling down and the Israelites captured the city as promised by God. A rag-tag group of people barely recognizable as an army challenged a fortified city and won. That rag-tag group of people was on a mission and they followed the directions they were given and changed the history of a region that continues into today.
The passage in Acts continues the story of Paul from the scriptures last week. Everyone warned Paul what would happen if he went to Jerusalem, but he maintained he was directed to go. Paul was arrested and brought before the council to address the charges against him. Paul, the ultimate insider, speaks the truth, demonstrating his own knowledge of the law to throw the council into chaos. He came in a prisoner and left shielded by the military due to the conflict happening in the council. The final verses confirm for us what Paul has said all along: Jesus directed him to take these steps.
As word of the miracles of Jesus spread, crowds coming to see him grew so large and dense, those coming in hopes of healing or some other miracle found it increasingly difficult to reach him. In the passage from Mark we read the familiar story of the friends taking extreme measures to ensure their paralyzed companion gains access to Jesus. Despite his growing popularity among the people, Jesus faced growing resistance from those in leadership. As Jesus addressed the paralytic, those leaders challenged (in their hearts) his actions. One more time, he demonstrated his Godness by recognizing their feelings and calling them on it – then going one step further by healing the man. Jesus’s determination to address the issues facing the man matched the determination of the friends in bringing the man to Jesus.
No matter the challenges faced by the people of God – walled cities, hardened hearts, disbelief. Those people determined to carry out the will of God as he has revealed it to them succeed no matter the odds against them. The factor those who considered themselves in power failed to consider was that God directed those with the hopeless cause. With God in control of the situation, no situation is hopeless.
Over the past few months, the scripture have provided example after example of people who interacted directly with God, and following that direction, performed wonders beyond our imagination. Just like them, we have the opportunity to make a difference in the world around us by believing God’s message to us. No matter how futile the circumstances may seem, when God is involved, futility has no place.
Let us have the courage to stand up to those in power when we are acting according to your direction.