Today has been a battle of me against the flying insects that seek warmth as the weather gets cooler. So far today I, armed with a trusty flyswatter, have dispatched 1 wasp (a daily occurrence), 2 box elder bugs, and at least a dozen flies. The wasps are so slow that one can swat them out of the air.
Including last Friday, in the next several weeks I will be celebrating the presence of God in the lives of many people. Last Friday we celebrated the life of Isabelle Clasen, 97, with her family. This coming Saturday I will celebrate the wedding of Gina Miller and Mitchell Scott. Then on Sunday Peace United Church celebrates the baptism of Kailey Luebesmier. The weekend of October 13 and 14 will bring the wedding of Becky Tschida and Thomas Willing and the baptism of Henry Fuechtmann, both at Grey Eagle UMC. I praise God for the Spirit’s presence in all our lives and in all times of our lives.
Our readings this week include:
Esther 7:1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22 – This is the only time in the three year lectionary cycle that we read from the book of Esther. Also note that this book does not mention God nor the worship of God. Here is my mini-synopsis of the story of Esther: Many Jews live in exile in Persia (now Iran). King Ahasuerus has a party and wants to show off his beautiful wife, Vashti. She doesn’t come when he summons her. To avoid shame he has her killed. There is a search for a new queen (“Persian Idol” anyone?). Esther, a Jew, wins. Her cousin Mordecai (M) discovers a plot to kill the king. King is saved and M is honored. M tells Esther not to tell King who she is. Haman (H), King A’s advisor, takes a dislike to M and plots to kill all Jews. M find out and pleads with Esther to intervene. Esther throws a party, reveals H’s plot to kill M and all Jews by hanging. King A is angry and orders H to be hanged. All Jews are saved and allowed to kill their enemies. Feast of Purim is instituted. Our reading highlights only Esther’s party, the revelation of the plot, Haman’s death, and the institution of Purim. All the messy stuff is passed over but you can easily read the entire book of Esther in one sitting. Good reading.
Psalm 124 – A psalm celebrating God saving Israel from destruction by their enemies. Memory verse: 124:8, “Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.”
Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29 – Short version: the people complain about manna (boring) to Moses, Moses complains about the people to God, and God anoints 70 elders to help Moses. Those 70 prophesy once. Two men not in the meeting of the 70 also prophesy. Joshua complains about them to Moses who says he wished everyone would receive God’s Spirit and prophesy. Are we often like the Israelites and complain about the amount or quality of a gift God has given? Do we look back on the “good old days” and complain about what we have now? Do we complain when someone has some gift of God that we don’t have?
Psalm 19:7-14 – The laws of the Lord are good (stated 6 different ways). Following the laws brings rewards. We had this Psalm two weeks ago. Do you remember the memory verse I mentioned then, verse 14?
James 5:13-20 – We skipped over several good passages in James between last week’s reading and this one. 4:11-12 warns against using the law to judge others. There is only one Judge and we are not it. That would be God. 4:13-17 warns against boasting. 5:1-6 warns against the wealthy who cheat workers and oppress the poor. 5:7-11 exhorts those who suffer to have patience because the Lord is coming. 5:12 is a memory verse. Our verses this week are the closing remarks by James to his church. He exhorts us to pray for the sick, pray for forgiveness, sing praises, and work to bring back those who have left the church. Have you asked a former church member to come back? Have you prayed for forgiveness? Have you sung songs of praise?
Mark 9:38-50 – There are two short passages here. In the first the disciples complain about a non-follower casting out demons using Jesus’ name. The second is Jesus warning the disciples (us?) to not cause children to be scandalized (stumbling block, stumble). Does Jesus mean in a literal sense that we should cut off our hand or foot or eye if they cause us to sin? I wonder how the Biblical Literalists take this passage, although I have never met a one arm, one foot, half blind Christian. Also, you should not verse 40 and compare it to Luke 9:50. Then compare those two verses with Luke 11:23 and Matthew 12:30. Does Luke contradict himself? Does Mark contradict Matthew? Does Mark and Matthew contradict at least one Luke verse? How do we handle Biblical contradictions? Or is it best to live in the tension of the contradictions?
Have a great week as you wrestle with the violence of Esther and the contradictions of the Gospels.