Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Really Good Question

Our Lectionary Texts this week are Isaiah 1:1, 10-20, Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16, and Luke 12:32-40.

When I read the Lectionary Texts to begin preparing for each week, the first thing I do is read each text in several different translations. I'll usually read several more traditional translations--NRSV, NIV, NASB--and then read The Message, a modern paraphrase of scripture that we use from time to time in worship at Broadneck. As I was reading the Isaiah passage, I was struck by Eugene Peterson's interpretation of verses 11-12: "Why this frenzy...? Whoever gave you the idea of acting like this, running here and there, doing this and that--all this sheer commotion in the place provided for worship?"

Our passages this week all challenge what I think has become a common cultural assumption in the church: that the busier we are doing good things for God--the more frantic our activity cramming in every possible holy thing that we can--the better disciples we are. After all, there is so much to be done, all the time; how will it ever happen if we're not running here and there, doing this and that? Like those addressed in Isaiah, we're not often running around filling our lives with horrible things; often our lives are filled with good things we need to be doing. Most of us like our lives to be full with activity, and we're afraid that if we slow down, we won't know what to do with ourselves, and everything will fall between the cracks--and we may fall as well.

In Luke, however, Jesus says something really interesting as Jesus addresses this fear: "Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." Huh. This sounds like the opposite of frenetic activity to letting go of our grasping frenzy, it seems, we bring joy to a God who wants to give us good gifts. We become free enough from crazy activity to engage in intentional activity--being generous of our time with others, not neglecting those it is easy to sweep past in a rush, hearing God when God places a crazy call upon our lives to journey to a place we do not know and cannot see.

Summer is often seen as a slower time, but it seems like this summer the frenzy has not slowed--every person I have talked to this week about the summer has expressed to me wonder at where the time has gone, at how they haven't had the chance to do all the different things they were going to do in this time of more leisurely pace. The world is in a frenzy; but who told us this was a good idea? Certainly not God, our readings seem to indicate.

"Why this frenzy?" That's a really good question for each of us to consider as we continue to follow Jesus on the road of discipleship--Jesus who found time in his journey to consider the questions and needs of each person he met, who always moved with purpose and focus but never, it seemed, in hurry or empty habit. What drives our frenzy...and what would it take for us to not be afraid, believing God wants to give us a kingdom that we don't have to scurry towards desperately, but that is already unfolding among us?

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