Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Proper 6 (Year A)

Proper 6 (A)
(Revised Common Lectionary)

Genesis 18:1-15 (21:1-7); Psalm 116: 1, 10-17
OR Exodus 19:2-8a; Psalm 100
Romans 5:1-8; Matthew 9:35-10:8 (9-23)

Continuing the Genesis account of the story of Abraham and Sarah, we are now told that God repeats the promise of a son to the old couple who by now are even older! The promise now seems even emptier, even silly to Sarah. But the challenging response is :"Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?" Walter Brueggemann finds: "Indeed, at the center of Israel's imaginative enterprise are Yahweh's impossibilities (pela), which regularly transform, reverse and invert lived reality...." (Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy, 1997, p.68)

The psalmist blurts out his despair that people are unreliable, but then immediately repeats the acts of ritual thanksgiving and calls on the Lord.

OR Once again, Yahweh repeats the unique, core promise: "Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all peoples."

Exuberant thanksgiving by the psalmist: God has made us and we are God's people.

Paul states the obvious to the church in Rome. No one achieves what she knows is right; we do not even try very hard most of the time. But then he declares, that did not stop God from giving a concrete gift-- God's love for us. "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Matthew focuses on his special interest-- the acceptance/rejection of Jesus by Israel. His followers are getting the same mixed responses. But they have been authorized by Jesus and should share his compassion for the "lost sheep." So, go witness and perform your own acts of restoration, as Jesus did.

Because God can reverse any human situation, bringing life out of the most barren circumstances, ("Is there anything too wonderful for the Lord?") we too are capable of reversing (restoring) ourselves, our relationships with others as well as the systems that set the terms of justice for others, ("Cure the sick, cleanse the leper, cast out demons. You received without payment [generously, freely]; give without payment."

The surprising "turn to religion" among postmodern writers includes a powerful awareness of moral obligation to one another. Indeed, the biblical emphasis on equating love of God and neighbor is a recurring theme. Here is a famous version by Derrida. "If God is the wholly other, the figure or name of the wholly other, then every other (one) is every (bit) other.
Tout autre est tout autre." "God s wholly other is to be found everywhere there is something of the wholly other. And since each of us, every one else, each other, is infinitely other in its absolute singularity, inaccessible, solitary, transcendent, non manifest.. then what can be said about Abraham's relation to God can be said about my relation ... to every other (one) as every (bit) other, in particular my relation to my neighbor or my loved ones who are as inaccessible to me, as secret, and as transcendent as Yahweh." (The Gift of Death, p. 78)

God has given us the "secret," which it turns out is not much of a secret at all and not even very difficult to understand: We are capable, with all our flaws, of the same kinds of actions and results that God gets when God brings new life out of what seemed impossible relationships and individuals. There really is no difference between what God does and what we
can do, if we choose. The same "otherness" of God, which elicits from us awe, respect, empathy, even love, is the same "otherness" of every other person, and that should elicit the same responses in us to others, (if we really think about it).