Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
Many congregations celebrated Reformation Sunday on October 29 and will be celebrating All Saints’ Day on November 5. For the purposes of this blog, though, I’m going to go with my preference. Sunday is Pentecost 22. Reformation Day is October 31. All Saints’ Day is November 1.
Our Psalm for Pentecost 22A is Psalm 43. In this psalm, the anonymous Psalmist calls upon God for vindication. The God who is his refuge seems to have forsaken him. The oppression of the enemies doesn’t seem to fit in his theological framework. After all, if the Lord is the great God over all, blessing and guarding his people, shouldn’t they always expect smooth sailing? Verses 3-5 are a recommitment to trusting in God. Even if our world seems difficult he is still the Lord.
You don’t have to see much Christian preaching or alleged entertainment before you stumble across this idea. Because Joe and Sally are Christians, everything will work out in their lives. They may endure some struggles, but they are only temporary and they find they are really in a bed of roses because of God’s grace. By the end of the book or movie, made by Schlocko Bible-Bashing Productions, not only have Joe and Sally seen God’s hand of mercy, they are multi-billionaires, everyone in their community is a Christian, and even their long lost relatives have been evangelized.
This is not what it really looks like when we live in a sin-cursed world. The fact is, life is rough. We work, we struggle, we endure repeated conflicts, we confront sin, weakness, illness, and, finally, every last one of us can expect to endure having our soul and body ripped apart in death. From that vantage point, it’s easy to think that God isn’t present, or, if he is, he doesn’t seem to care very much.
How did the Psalmist turn the corner in verse three? As we read elsewhere in Scripture, there’s a societal element to life. We encourage one another in the faith. We love and serve our neighbors. The greatest love we can show them includes an honest acknowledgement that we live in a fallen world. Yet that confession must reach an end point. Jesus has overcome the world. He is the one who, in the last day, will resurrect the bodies, make them better than they were before, and reunite them with their souls. Life in the resurrection is a real thing.
Does that picture of Joe and Sally above make sense? There will be some people whose lives seem charmed. But along with those people, in the last day, the book of Revelation describes many people who were killed for their Christian faith but who eventually live a resurrected life in the presence of God. The vast majority of us are somewhere in between those two poles. We, like the Psalmist, see a world of trouble. We turn to the Lord and find that he is the one in whom we can hope.
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