Saturday, October 15, 2016

Instruction for the People

Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:

In your days I will speak the word and fulfill it, says the Lord God. - Ezekiel 12:25

We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. - 2 Peter 1:16

Two-year reading texts: Psalm 119:17-24; 2 Samuel 7; John 7:25-44

"Open my eyes," says the psalmist. And throughout scripture, we have stories of people whose eyes are opened by God, in surprising ways.

2 Samuel 7 is a significant turning point in the Bible's big story, with David finally settling in as king in Jerusalem, and making up his mind to make a house for God, the temple. But God speaks to David through Nathan and says No, "I will make you a house," meaning the household and lineage of David's kingship. God has never been unsatisfied to travel with God's people, and now God chooses to become known through David's line, which will ultimately lead to the Messiah. David is amazed by the grace and goodness behind God's promise, and responds with praise and wonder and gratitude. Part of David's prayer of thanksgiving is this request for blessing: "May this be instruction for the people." He prays that the memory of this particular part of the story might be a reminder, forever, of God's abundant grace.

The memory of stories like this might have helped people recognize Jesus, when his time came. For example, in John 7, there is confusion over who Jesus is, where he comes from, and what his relationship might be to the Messiah. Jesus also points back to God as the origin of all the good things he says and does.

In our time, God's people of the church around the world are living through another turning point in the story. The power and influence of the institutional church as a force in Western civilization is declining. The centers of religious power we've looked to for generations are fading, and we're seeing with new eyes how God is alive and active in the world in countless smaller ways. This can feel unsettling, and we might seek to use our own power to try to "build a new house" for God in some ways. But maybe David's prayer can be effective for us, and the story of God active in his life can be instruction for the people of the church today. God is not unsatisfied to travel with God's people, and the promise of the eternal presence of the Messiah still stands. Wherever we go, and whatever form(s) the church takes in years to come, we have the assurance of God's abundant grace.

God, thank you for opening our eyes. Thank you for the scriptures that keep alive the stories of your faithfulness with people before us. Thank you for the lordship of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit for our instruction. Call us and enable us to be faithful to you, and to respond with wonder and praise and gratitude wherever we see your grace. Lead us through the challenges of this time and place. And may our story also become instruction for the people yet to come, and a reminder, forever, of your grace.

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