Choosing teams on the playground was the most stressful part of my school day. Read aloud for the class—got it. Recite the “times table” for twelves—got it. Color the picture of a rainbow—got it. Wait to be picked for a thirty-minute game of kickball—anxiety abounded. Truth is, I was never picked last. For a girl, I was considered pretty good by the boys who were always the choosers; and because everyone had to be chosen, I would be among the first girls to land safely. But I watched as the numbers dwindled, and the last person standing (not always a girl) would end up on the team that got last pick. There’s not much joy in going where you are unwanted, and it wouldn’t be too many weeks into the year when those last picks would opt out of being not picked—“Naw, I don’t want to play” and go off in search of an empty swing.
Paul has watched this scene play out among his own people for much higher stakes. He knows that while we remain locked in competition with one another, there will always be “strangers and aliens.” There will always be people who are not picked. Paul explains the new rules, the promise to all of us through Christ Jesus: We have already been picked. We are chosen. Such knowledge frees us to grow together into “a dwelling place for God,” and such a dwelling place is absent of hostility, exclusion, or rejection.
Paul reminds us what the prophets have always known—God’s presence is manifest through the people and the places that live into God’s hope-filled future. To break the hold of hostility clouding our vision for this future, we can begin with some simple goals: Stop choosing sides; stop keeping score. Focus on the One whom we adore.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, serving thee whom we adore, serving thee whom we adore. (UMH, no. 577)
David was God’s anointed king over Israel. He believed God desired a house, a Temple worthy of God. But God wanted David to understand that only God can build things that truly last. Thus, God promised to construct a dynasty from David’s family. From this line will eventually come the ultimate King, the Messiah, who will rule God’s people forever. The Messiah will complete God’s work of uniting all people as children of God, and the author of Ephesians declares that this has happened through Christ. All God’s people—Jew and Gentile—are now part of a holy, spiritual temple. In Mark, Jesus shows that part of being a great king is showing compassion. He puts aside his own desires to help those in need of guidance and healing.
• Read 2 Samuel 7:1-14a. Do you prefer stability or flexibility? What are the advantages of each?
• Read Psalm 89:20-37. What has been your experience with organizations or churches that are leader-dependent?
• Read Ephesians 2:11-22. When have you found yourself employing binary thinking: black and white with no shades of gray? How has that limited your focus?
• Read Mark 6:30-34, 53-56. When have you had an experience of illness or accident that left you isolated from community? How did that increase your awareness of others in that situation as you moved to health?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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