Sometimes reading the lectionary feels like picking up someone else’s library book by mistake and finding familiar words but an unfamiliar story. This week’s Gospel lesson is like that, a chunk from the middle of the charge Jesus gives to his disciples as he sends them out to teach and heal in his name. First he recognizes that the process will not be easy: The disciples will experience rejection. They will be accused of working for the enemy, for demons like Beelzebul. But Jesus assures them that truth will endure. The kingdom of heaven is not one of the mystery cults common in the day of Jesus with special knowledge reserved only for the elite. In the kingdom of heaven, what might seem hidden, like the mysterious workings of God, will be revealed.
Jesus assures the disciples that the pain of persecution is balanced by the knowledge that their pain matters to God, who knows even when a sparrow, common as mud, falls to the ground. God is mindful of the sparrows, and God is mindful of us, knowing us well enough to number the hairs on our head.
That kind of knowing and being known might be a blessed antidote to the kind of alienation and loneliness many of us feel. While new forms of media have made us more connected to a constant flow of information, they have disconnected us from certain forms of community. A fast from shallow connection to allow room for deeper connection is a spiritual practice you might try. It could involve unhooking from social media for a week or more, or setting aside sabbath time each week in which you seek less data and more wisdom.
Send us out on your mission, Lord. Send us, in assurance of your loving attention with the good news that your eye is on the sparrows and on us. Amen.
The story of Isaac and Ishmael resounds through human history down to today. According to Genesis, tensions between the descendants of Isaac and the descendants of Ishmael go back to the lifetime of Abraham himself. These are complex issues, and we are wise to understand them theologically, not just politically. The psalmist calls out to God from a place of desperation, yet even in desperation there is confident hope in God. Paul attacks a theology of “cheap grace” in Romans. Yes, God forgives us; but this does not give us license to do whatever we want. When we are joined to Christ, we die to ourselves. Jesus tells his disciples that following him is a sort of death. We sacrifice a life under our own control yet find something much greater.
Read Genesis 21:8-21. Consider an action you regret or wish you’d handled differently. How might a daily examen practice help you correct or move on from your mistakes?
Read Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17. With whom do you need to reconcile? How might this psalm help you begin that process?
Read Romans 6:1b-11. Consider the author’s question, “What does freedom from sin look like?” Allow the author’s suggestions and questions to guide your searching for an answer.
Read Matthew 10:24-39. How do you see the tension Jesus identifies between inclusion and separation in your Christian life today?
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