Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Book of Common Prayer
Psalm 63, 98, 103
Job 25:1-6, 27:1-6
Revelation 14:1-7, 13
In the busyness of daily life, how do I do everything God would have me do?
My vocation keeps me busy year-round; however, there are a few times in the year when I think I would best be served if I could go a couple weeks without sleep and I wonder how to do everything I believe God wants me to do. The scriptures from today’s lectionary remind me that mostly God looks at how I do what I do rather than what I do.
The three Psalms of praise give some direction to how we should praise God. They remind us to be loud, jubilant, and constant in our praise for him. Though circumstances around us may challenge our faith in the instant, the scripture calls our attention to God’s eternal plan. Even when challenged, our praise in those times will carry rewards into eternity. In the context of today’s passages, I read Psalm 63:9 differently than before: though my opposition my kill me, they will suffer more. Last week the Job passage talked about the theme of reward and punishment. This week, I see that in a passage that is otherwise interpreted as a provision of safety.
Job continues to hear the challenges from his friends. Bildad offers the final rebuke, placing mankind in the most distant position from God – as the maggot which devours the dead. Surely mankind has no standing against God. Yet Job maintains his position of righteousness. No matter how unjust the events in Job’s life seems to be, he continues to be determined to hold onto his faith and seek justice from that same God. The clearness of Job’s conscience is something I can only hope to have.
So much of Revelation hides in symbolism. Some of it quiet unclear, and some of it much more clear. The symbols in the passage today have connections to other scriptures to help us understand them with more ease than some of the other passages. The numerology in the 144,000 – sometime called the elect – reflects the many who died for their faith (name written on their forehead) in the period up to the final judgment. Contrary to how some sects interpret the passage, the elect who make it to Heaven is not limited to that number. One hundred forty-four (12 X 12) is a complete number indicating multitudes (the thousands). It simply means many people will suffer persecution for following God before Christ returns. The reference to sexual purity connects to the ritual celibacy that comes as part of religious ceremony and war preparation, not an entire lifetime of abstinence. The passage closes with the promise that affirms the importance of the lives we live before reaching Heaven. It states, without symbolism or interpretive language that the deeds we do go with us to Heaven.
Jesus calls us to join in his kingdom and share it by declaring that we are salt and light. Salt, joined to food, brings out its flavor. Too much and salt dominates; too little and the food tastes bland. We are to join in the world and by our actions shape the actions in the world around us by living the way God would have us. He commands us to share openly (as the light) in the world around us so that the entire world knows why we do as we do. Jesus further explains what the kind of living means. Following him does not excuse us from the law, but counts on us to live the law (as Jesus summarizes it – love God and love your neighbor). Jesus adamantly insists that the law exists for our good, but he comes and preaches the heart of the law rather than the letter of the law as so many in his time were preaching. Jesus could summarize the law into the two commandments because coming from the heart, it works for the good of all while the legalistic interpretation always pits persons against each other by virtue of interpretation.
Living our lives as salt and light, with a clear conscience, and building up deeds that will follow us to Heaven does not require that we go out and do something particularly challenging. We are called to live our lives, do our jobs, and interact from the perspective of loving God and our neighbor. We can minister by going to work. We can minister by shopping. We can minister by going to the gym. In all things, as we consider the good of others, we shine the light of God into our community.
Let us remember your commandment to love God and love one another in every action we do.