Friday, September 30, 2016

In God's Hands

Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:

O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger, or discipline me in your wrath. - Psalm 6:1

Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. - Romans 8:34

Two-year reading texts: Psalm 114; 1 Samuel 20:18-21:9; John 4:39-42

Reggie and Zoe in an earlier moment
of serious scrutiny and jealousy.
This morning was cooler, darker, and chillier than usual when I sat down for scripture and prayer time. So it might not be surprising that both Zoe the cat and Reggie the dog decided they needed to be in the middle of what I was doing. We got into the mode we sometimes do, where I had one hand scritching one pet and the other hand scritching the other. Usually this arrangement seems fine with everybody (though it's a good thing we don't have three pets). But once in a while, there is scrutiny and jealousy. Like brother and sister, they watch to see what attention the other is getting, and if they feel slighted, they demand equal treatment. Pushing, whacking, or chomping may occur.

It's a long stretch from scritching pets to the serious conflicts of life, and a big difference between our couch and the whole kingdom of God. But it struck me, as I read the scriptures for today, how important it is to know that we're in God's loving hands. Psalm 6 and Romans 8 both address situations of suffering and opposition, potentially life-or-death struggles against others. 1 Samuel 20-21 shows the escalating conflict between Saul and David. But there is assurance that God will watch over all. Saul's son Jonathan is loyal and honest, willing to put himself at risk to protect David, who has done nothing wrong. Jesus, in John 4, takes the time to reveal God's life and truth even to people usually seen by the people of God as mutual enemies. Psalm 6 and Psalm 114 both testify to God's ability to deliver people from danger.

Then, in Romans 8, one of my favorite Bible passages, Paul proclaims very clearly that God is at work in the midst of all our troubles, that nothing at all can come between us and God's love, and that in Christ, we have proof that God is not out to condemn us, but instead stops at nothing to seek true life for us. Even when we don't know how to pray or how to handle a situation, God is there, Christ and the Holy Spirit both said to be interceding on our behalf.

Today, I'm not aware of any life-or-death threats against me. Life is comfortable in many ways. But there are always doubts and pains and worries. In my work as a pastor, in a time when the worldwide church is going through massive changes, I try to discern God's way forward, and I also find plenty of forces - within myself, among the people I serve, and all around us from other sources - that work against what seems best and most faithful. Today, it's a comfort to know that I'm in God's hands. I might doubt, or with scrutiny and jealousy wish that God's touch was more obvious. I might imagine enemies where there are really just others who also just seek God's attention, and I might be tempted to react coldly against them. But whatever my response, the promise and truth is that I am in God's hands, and so are we all.

God, help me to live in this moment with you, aware of your care and guidance. Move me to both rest and action when the time is right. Forgive my small ways of thinking and self-centered perspective. Work in me and through me, so that I can notice your hands, receive your love, and announce it to others.

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