Thursday, August 13, 2015

Commitment and Faithfulness

By Colleen O’Sullivan

(The Lord, the God of Israel, said:)  “I brought your father Abraham from the region beyond the River and led him through the entire land of Canaan.  I made his descendants numerous…  Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and smote Egypt with the prodigies which I wrought in her midst.  Afterward I led you out of Egypt…  I gave you a land that you had not tilled and cities that you had not built, to dwell in; you have eaten of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.”   (Joshua 24:3ab, 5, 13)

Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and tested him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?  So they are no longer two, but one flesh. (Matthew 19:3-5)

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever. (Psalm 136:1)

The first Scripture reading today is rather long, but it’s worth reading in its entirety when you have a few minutes.  Both that passage from the Book of Joshua and the Gospel reading are about commitment and faithfulness.  As I read and re-read the account of God’s faithfulness to the people of Israel, some “what if’s” began to dance through my head.

What if one day God had gotten busy and forgot to watch where the Israelites were?  What if that had happened at the moment they were crossing the Red Sea?  What if God had become so preoccupied as his people wandered in the desert that God forgot to shower down manna for days?  What if we prayed and God wasn’t listening?  What if we begged for forgiveness for our sins, and God was somewhere else, not even hearing our confession?

“How ridiculous!” we say.  God made a covenant to be our God and God is always and everywhere faithful to that covenant.  But, the other half of the covenant states that we are God’s people.  If you flip those “what if’s” around, how committed and faithful are we?  When things don’t go the way we think they should, do we declare there is no God and turn away?  When our prayer life hits a dry patch, do we continue to show up for our prayer time anyway? 
As I read the Gospel for today, I was reminded that preparing couples for marriage and officiating at their weddings were not my favorite pastoral activities, because so few people understood they were entering into a covenant with each other, a commitment to love one another and be faithful to each other.  They were more intent on discussing their big day and all the attendant festivities.   It was difficult to get them to focus on the lifelong relationship they were entering into or that they were committing to love each other even on days when they didn’t feel like it.

God is always faithful to us.  What is it that keeps you from being faithful to your part of the covenant?

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