Saturday, August 13, 2016

Recognize Grace

By Lisa Helene Bacalski

There was no water in the cistern, only mud,
and Jeremiah sank into the mud.

--Jeremiah 38:6b

Surely, I wait for the LORD;
who bends down to me and hears my cry
--Psalm 40:2

Brothers and sisters:
Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us
and persevere in running the race that lies before us
while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus,
the leader and perfecter of faith.

--Hebrews 12:1-2a

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing!
There is a baptism with which I must be baptized,
and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division.”

--Luke 12:49-51

be to the
Father, and
to the Son, and
to the Holy Spirit
as it was in the
beginning, is
now and ever

It is tempting to read this week’s Gospel with a doomsday eye and despair about destruction. Yet the other readings can also point us to another interpretation. The letter to the Hebrews reminds us that we are not alone but rather preceded and surrounded by saints who followed the model of love taught to them by Jesus, “the leader and perfecter of faith.” The psalm offers gratitude for deliverance and the ever-suffering Jeremiah is rescued from a cistern. Those who preceded us in God’s everlasting story of love faced some real challenges but they also recognized grace.

That is where we often fall short today, when it is much easier to stay within the safety of cultural interpretations of the apocalypse than to step towards the unexplainable awesomeness of God’s love. Could it be that the fire Jesus speaks of is not a consuming fire that destroys us, but the purifying fire of Divine Love? From there, can we recognize that the divisions in our families, parishes, neighborhoods and workplaces often arise from places of fear rather than love? Can we shed light on the darkness and strive to overcome sin?

Our forebears in faith were not perfect. The very reason we have a letter to the Hebrews is that they were straying from Christian ideals, and the truth spoken to them has echoed through the ages because we need to hear it over and over again. If King David was on easy street, he wouldn’t have cried out to God for deliverance and then written the very lovely thank you note that is Psalm 40. Prior to being dropped into the cistern, Jeremiah had been beaten, thrown in the stocks and threatened with death for his prophesies. Yet he knew that God had literally put words into his mouth and he continued to share God’s promises. Aren’t we called by our baptisms to do the same?

Seek God’s grace in yourself and those around you. Accept an assist from those around you, or just let the grace wash over you. This Matt Maher song might help. 

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