Pearls of Hope - Reflections 7-22-20

Texts for Sunday July 26, 2020
The 8th Sunday after Pentecost

I’ve had one of those really-weary-of-the-pandemic weeks. Not as in take-my-mask- off-and-party weary; more like keep-my-eyes-on-the-trends-to-be-wise weary. Currently our state is a “red zone” in terms of increasing cases of COVID19. As always politics is taking the lead in our response. I guess it was also a really-weary-of-the-politics-of-our-country week. Now that I think of it, the whole news week was exhausting,from trafficked children to unmarked federal troops storming city streets.
I was grateful to find that the readings for this Sunday helped stabilize my weary and wobbling spirit. These are some tidbits of hope that I found in the texts. They may seem random, but that’s how my mind rolls right now.
The first reading from 1 Kings is about King David’s son Solomon.  He was the second child of David and Bathsheba who was named as David’s successor. As it was with all kings from the beginning of the Kingdom of Israel, there is a messy history around Solomon’s accession to the throne. But in this story, for one brief shining moment, when God offers a gift, Solomon, the new leader, chooses wisdom – discernment between good and evil - over power or riches or adulation. 
Look around our world. As I read this text, I’m astounded for Solomon’s humble and excellent choice that “pleased the Lord”. Sit in silence and breathe in that one moment long ago when a leader of a country put aside power and ego, to choose something that is God-centered and other-centered. Refreshing. Of course, Solomon went on for 40 years to be a mix of a terrific king and a terrible king but that one moment was golden.
Then there is Psalm 119. We only use a few verses this week because Psalm 119 has 176 verses. Its careful construction and organization suggest that it is a teaching psalm. It uses the Hebrew alphabet as an acrostic and some kind of numerical system for how many verses each letter gets (8). Psalm 119 extols the joy of a life guided by the Torah. Don’t read that as strict legalism. It is a life that is accompanied and guided by God through God’s word; verse 105: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Life with God is full and meaningful. The text is a reminder of and invitation to that path.

The Romans text this week is packed with grace and good news. It is a scripture for this moment in time. It starts out with The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. It is true that I really do not know how to pray for our country, or the world or racial and economic injustices. May the Spirit intercede.
And this Romans text ends with a verse that steadied me throughout my mother’s long decline from Alzheimer’s. It says boldly that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Not COVID, not economics, not centuries of systemic racism, not armed military on the streets facing off with unarmed protesters, not politics, not deep division between neighbors and family. Not Alzheimer's. Not one single thing. With that assurance, we have hope to move us forward. And hope is the only thing that will get me moving forward.
Finally, a parable has been described as “a fiction that tells the truth”. In the Gospel text from Matthew, Jesus launches no less than five parables in a row about the “kingdom of heaven”. To be clear, the kingdom of heaven is not a place and not just in the future. It describes God’s action among God’s people – past, present, future.
So, what truth do these stories offer about God’s activity in the world? 

Here’s my take for this moment. Just pondering that question helps me take a step back and see a bigger picture.
The kingdom of heaven grows beyond expectation or explanation. It welcomes and nurtures. It is mysterious. It impacts and transforms that which surrounds it. It is priceless, worth sacrifices, and needs patience. It is bountiful and…trust that God will deal with this mess.
What do you hear in those parables? 
After the disciples say “yes” that they understood all those parables, Jesus tosses in one more. This message of the kingdom is both new and ancient. Perhaps for all times?
Peace to you all during these challenging times.
COVID fatigue is a real thing. For ideas on coping, here are some thoughts from UC Davis.

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Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245