Friday, March 6, 2015

Friday of the Second Week of Lent


Genesis 37:2-4,12-13,15-28
Psalm 105
Matthew 21:33-46


Envy and desire often breed discontent. It’s clearly evident in our readings today… 

When the discontent is within ourselves, it’s poisonous. Joseph’s discontented brothers wish him gone; the tenant farmers visit violence and death to the master’s servants, and to his son. 

When the envy is aimed at us, it’s painful. Rejection on the part of Joseph. The loss of a child for the vineyard’s master. 

These behaviors and the kind of greed, lust – really – for power, knowledge, prestige, all have their root in the fall. Even the Flood was unable to completely purge the earth. Given the new beginning we got with Noah, and viewing how his descendants have managed to handle themselves… I sometimes shudder to think what our world would have been like in this day and age without God’s intervention!

At the same time, one could argue that Joseph had it coming to him. He was a favorite, after all; and he didn’t exactly mind rubbing in the faces of his brothers just what God had revealed to him. His father treated him like royalty. Their own actions served to give fuel to the fire that brewed just beneath the surface of Jacob’s other sons… the fire that often brews just beneath our own surface. 

And yet, even with intervention, we are still suffering in a world of injustice, of envy, of malice. We live in a world where the rich decry living wages for the poor. A world where governments have no issue leveling villages, towns, and cities filled with defenseless people with the simple flick of a switch. Our reality is also one in which people believe they have born privilege, as well as one in which those who do not have privilege sometimes take it upon themselves to ensure that they get what they believe is fair… or more.

This isn’t what God has called us to… not at all! But it is the reality we face. And we, as people of God, marked in baptism by Christ Jesus and the Spirit, are called to do something about it. “But,” we may ask, “what can we do… I mean really do?”

To be honest, the question is so complex, it would be impossible for me to answer it directly… though I think that the prophet Micah has some suggestions.  

YAHWEH has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

Will we solve injustice, cruelty, suffering, and hatred in the world, in our lifetime? No. We won’t. But we can do our part. We can walk in ways that minister compassion, instead of fostering envy. We can seek to help others, and in doing so, we can help ourselves. None of this is possible, though, without the active and vital participation of the Spirit… and so, this day, let us pray that the Spirit would help us to avoid the pitfalls of envy and of breeding envy in others, so that we may bring dignity, wholeness, and hope to those who so desperately need it, in our back yards… and throughout the world.


For those engaged in urban missionary work here in central Indiana,
that they may be given a sense of connectedness to those they encounter,
forging solidarity
and a groundswell of compassion
in the face of homelessness,
substance abuse,
mental illness,
and abandonment,
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

For those engaged in foreign missions,
that differences in cultures and communication styles
would be no hindrance to sharing the message of the living God,
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer. 

For those in positions of civil, economic, and educational authority,
that their primary concern would be for the people their actions effect,
not simply today,
but often for a lifetime,
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

For those who foster envy, hatred, and jealousy,
that their hearts and spirits would be turned
through the gracious visitation of the Spirit,
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

For all who feel abandoned by God,
that through the work of caring believers,
they may find in themselves the courage
to establish new
and reestablish forgotten ties
with the creator of the heavens and the earth,
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

For the dying as they embark on their final journey,
that they may recognize God’s presence with them in their final moments,
so that, cleansed, forgiven, and fearful no longer,
they may rest peacefully in the promises of Christ,
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

Hear us now, O Lord, as we bring to you our own personal needs and intentions...