Friday, October 13, 2017

Clothed with Salvation, Covered with Righteousness

Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:

My whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness. – Isaiah 61:10

Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. – Luke 6:21

Two-year reading texts: Psalm 118:22–29; Ezekiel 18:19–19:14; James 1:9–18

The image of being "clothed" or "covered" in faith has been strong for me this week. Part of it comes from planning for this Sunday, when Jesus' parable in Matthew 22:1-14 presents God's kingdom as a great wedding feast, where special robes are part of the celebration. And in fact, today's Old Testament verse adds another phrase with the same kind of image: "... as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels."

Part of the "clothed / covered" image for me is also the recognition that salvation and righteousness don't come from me, but from God. There is no way I could work up, from within myself, the ability to save myself from my own self-centered attachments, or from the powerful forces in the world that want to use and abuse me and squeeze my life out of shape. Jesus' blessings and woes in Luke 6 point us to an awareness of how God is the one true source of life. As God's grace sends Jesus' salvation into our lives, we "put on" Christ and extend his ministry to the world.

On many levels - as an individual, husband, father, family member, friend, pastor, citizen, and occupant of this planet - I know that I face a lot of challenges and decisions. When I try to meet this with nothing but my own resources, as hard as I try, the results are flawed and incomplete and disappointing. So I give thanks - as Isaiah says, "my whole being shall exult" - that as a free gift of God's grace, the salvation and righteousness of Christ is given to the whole world. Covering me over, with my own ways buried and submitted, the garments of Christ's ways can qualify me for God's kingdom and present to the world a much better image of the way life should be.

The stained glass artwork in today's image is from a window in Exeter College chapel at Oxford, representing Revelation 7:9, the worship of "a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands." In John's vision of eternal life with God, there will be many of us, clothed with salvation, covered with righteousness, who endure the challenges of life by the grace of God, and give thanks to God forever. For all who are hungry, weeping, put down, wanting in any way, divided or constricted by the forces around us - and for myself, too - I pray for the encompassing grace of God, covering us, saving us, drawing us together for the great feast, empowering us in all our differences and flaws to bear witness and serve and honor God.

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Today is my first day back here, after a break of exactly two months. I struggled for a while with preparing and entering into a different daily scripture routine, as I was helping some small groups to get started with the "Essential 100" Bible reading plan (see http://e100challenge.com if you'd like to learn more about what that is, and how it works). I thought I might resume here with a focus on the E100 readings. As the groups got going, I found that I was able to follow the E100 schedule and that it was very good for discussion and prayer with the groups - but I missed the Daily Texts, and went back to focusing on them for my own personal reflection. So this week, a few weeks later than I originally hoped, I decided to continue these "Take Up Today" posts based mostly on the Daily Texts. (I'm sure some insights from the E100 readings will also sneak in here, too.) I guess this represents a decision that I'll always recommend some kind of plan and process for regular scripture reading, but yours and mine don't have to be the same. I'll stick with the Daily Texts here, and I hope that for some people, a place for daily scripture and prayer reflections might be helpful, whether you're reading along with the Daily Texts, the E100, something else, or nothing at all yet. As always, I'm glad for your company along the way, and I think it would be great for you to journal and/or share your own reflections. And in the spirit of today's scriptures, I'm glad whenever I can join some other people of faith in putting on God's salvation and righteousness and celebrating together!

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