Wednesday, March 1, 2017

My Times Are in Your Hand

Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:

The Lord said to Moses, "You cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live." - Exodus 33:20

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. - Hebrews 11:1-2

Two-year reading texts: Psalm 31:10-20; 2 Chronicles 36; Acts 27:9-20

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. Many Christians will start a journey of 40 days (not including Sundays) where we cut down on something or add something to our lives in order to help us focus more on our spiritual lives. This is not something to brag about (as we'll hear Jesus say when we read Matthew 6:1-6,16-21 in worship tonight), just a quiet way to work on our relationship with God and others, for the sake of love. During Lent, I will try, harder than I have been lately, to write something here every day as a reflection on the Daily Texts. This isn't part of my own Lenten discipline, but just as an example and encouragement for anyone else who might want to try daily scripture reading and reflection.

For Lent this year, I have offered one idea for a Lenten discipline at Zion Lutheran Church in Valley City, OH, where I serve as pastor. I noticed that the Daily Texts' New Testament reading is from the book of Romans most of the way through Lent (with the first few days telling part of Paul's story, from the last chapters of the book of Acts), and readings from Romans also appear as the second reading for several of the Sundays in Lent, in the Revised Common Lectionary used by many churches. So I thought it might be interesting to read through Romans together. If you're looking for a Lenten practice, or just interested in reading along, you can check out the little guide I wrote by clicking here. The daily readings are listed on the second page. They're exactly the same as the Moravian Daily Texts readings, so if you're using those already, you won't need my list. The first page is an encouragement to get together with a few friends (I'm using the name "Step Group" for this) and talk together about what you've read, listen to and encourage one another, and pray for each other.

Whatever you decide about Lent, I hope this is a season of learning and growing in God's light!

Today, my attention was captured by David's statement of faith in Psalm 31:15: "My times are in your hand." The psalm covers times of need for both the psalmist himself, and all people of faith. It's a reminder that God is able to bring us through anything, no matter how big or scary.

And we have some examples: The Old Testament reading today is the last chapter of the book of 2nd Chronicles, which tells the story of the crumbling of Judah, the southern kingdom of God's people. After the ups and downs of kings wise and unwise, faithful and unfaithful, war and opposition finally consume the nation. Jerusalem and the temple are destroyed, and the people taken into exile. The record of the kings of Israel and Judah is closed. And yet, the people enter a time of seeing God at work in new ways, through new people. The exile turns out to be a chance for their faith to be renewed, reinterpreted, expanded, written down, and strengthened for future generations.

In the New Testament reading, as part of the last two chapters of the book of Acts, we have the story of Paul, under Roman guard and being shipped to Rome for his trial, experiencing a powerful storm at sea. Everybody on the ship is in danger of death. But Paul, the prisoner, will become a voice of calm and hope that helps them get through. In the big narrative of the Bible, this is just one small scene. But it's told so that we can be inspired by God's faithfulness, and by the simple power of reminding ourselves who's in charge of our lives.

"My times are in your hand." This is true today as well. I wonder sometimes what future history lessons will say about these years we're living through right now. Our records will show that we recognized this as a time of division, fear, frustration, and possibly danger for our country and our world. But we aren't the first people to have our world rocked, and we won't be the last! What will we say and do about it? Where will we turn for inspiration, for hope, and for a way toward something better? May this be a time when our story might someday be told as a way for people to understand the meaning and the power of this ancient statement of faith: "My times are in your hand."

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