Raw atheism—“there is no god”—can be an easy target for theists like us. How nice it can be to mow down opponents with verse 1’s wonderful insult! After all, who wants to be a fool? Extracting this passage from its context, we can relish the implied assurance—you’re not a fool if you believe in God—and claim our imagined reward for faithful worship of the true God. And the psalmist draws a distinction between the foolish, whose denial of God results in immoral behavior, and the wise, who seek after God.
Something else is going on here, though, that takes us away from intellectual skirmishes with God-deniers. The psalm grapples with the question of evil’s existence and invites us into yet another set of frontal-lobe activities that involve mental processes as we ponder difficult questions that we hope pure brain power can answer.
Standing on the sidelines of this tussle is another question. This passage takes us back to the self-congratulating possibility that we are actually gods, or at least godlike, with all attendant privileges. Journeying down to the heart of our self-image, past rationality or logical cognition, we come to a secret room inside our souls. There we take comfort in soaring feelings about living above or beyond the rules that ensnare other people. No imperatives claw at us; no rulebooks keep us chained to low self-image. We relish the emotions that come with being totally free of constraints that keep other people moored to laws—other people or even God. We are righteous because we are gods!
What’s unwise and evil here? Believing that this way of thinking could work out for us, now and into the distant future.

Ever-powerful God, help me keep my foolish self-idolatry at a manageable level today. Amen.

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Read John 6:1-21

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Lectionary Week
July 23–29, 2018
Scripture Overview

The Bible is filled with the stories of imperfect people. David is a classic case. In Second Samuel he commits adultery, tries to cover it up, and then plots a murder. How can this be the same man who penned this week’s psalm, which decries the foolishness of people who act in a godless way? Like us, David was a fallen person who needed God’s extravagant mercy. In Ephesians we read of this same extravagance given through Christ, whose power can do what we cannot—namely redeem all of us who are also foolish and fallen. The Gospel author demonstrates the power of Jesus through what he describes as “signs,” which Jesus performed not primarily to amaze the onlookers but rather to point them to his identity as the Son of God.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

• Read 2 Samuel 11:1-15. How often do you consider the ramifications of your decisions and actions on the wider body?
• Read Psalm 14. How frequently do you find yourself envisioning a life free of constraints? What does that life look like?
• Read Ephesians 3:14-21. How does “being rooted and grounded in love” manifest itself in your life?
• Read John 6:1-21. When have you tried to force God into a mold of your own making to serve your needs?

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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