It sticks out like a sore thumb. In the middle of this hymn
of gratitude, there it is: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is
the death of his faithful ones.” A puzzling verse to readers for
centuries. The word precious may mislead us. The basic meaning
of the word is “weighty.” For example, in Psalm 139:17, “How
weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum
of them!” God’s thoughts are weighty; they’re difficult for us
to understand. We are left to wonder: Why are we talking about
death at all?
This text can teach us important aspects of gratitude and
mourning, of joy and sorrow. God has rescued the psalmist from
death. But not all are so fortunate. The psalmist faces the question:
How does God feel about “the death of his faithful ones”?
When Orthodox Jewish family members paint their house,
they leave a patch unpainted as a memorial to the destruction of
the Jerusalem temple. The lesson: When we rejoice, we ought to
remember those who are in mourning. Otherwise, our rejoicing
feels thin, predicated on God favoring us—perhaps even predicated
on God favoring us over another. We pair joyful love, the
kind that says “we love the Lord because of the good,” with
awareness of the value of sorrowful love—the kind that says
“we love the Lord despite the bad.” In this way our thanksgiving
remains grounded in reality and hospitable to those who are
not rejoicing with us.
Lord, in my joyful gratitude, may I be mindful of those who are mourning. Amen.
What is the Easter message, and what are we to do with it? Two dimensions of the responses to God’s act of raising Jesus stand out. First, repeatedly the texts speak of public worship. Second, the texts speak of changed lives. In 1 Peter 1 the Resurrection effects a new birth marked by obedience to the truth and mutual love. The two responses—public worship and transformed lives—are not separate from each other in the texts. One leads to the other and back again.
• Read Acts 2:14a, 36-41. What of Peter’s words that follow speak to the heart of the good news: “God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified”?
• Read Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19. The psalmist declares that he will pay his vows to the Lord “in the presence of all [God’s] people.” As the author notes, what story will you tell about God’s work in your life?
• Read 1 Peter 1:17-23. When have you witnessed God’s guid- ing hand at work in your life, not only in pleasant times but also in disappointment and darkness?
• Read Luke 24:13-35. When have you participated in a Bible study that offered such illuminating results? When have you experienced the inbreaking of God’s life at the table of Jesus Christ?
Respond by posting a prayer.
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