AM Psalm 146, 147; PM Psalm 111, 112, 113
If I were to sum up our reading from Jeremiah today in two sentences, it would be “Well, DUH. I wrote down what I told you would happen if you don’t straighten up and fly right. It’s not like I didn’t tell you.”
I was reminded of how easy it is to miss things, even when they were written down, this week. The person who coordinates all the technical bits and bobs of our medical school pathology course was out on a family emergency this week, right when the first year students are beginning the Pathology course. He left us a very detailed “to-do” list of what needed to be done this week in his absence. By Thursday, I was confused as to why students were asking me questions that should have been answered if they had only watched the overview I normally video that describes the right answers to their “self-check” questions at the end of each learning module. They kept saying, “We’re not allowed to see the answers to the questions.” I kept thinking, “Huh? What are you talking about?” and would ask, “Have you watched the overview?”
Finally, one said, “What overview?”
Only then did I start remembering I was supposed to have recorded one earlier in the week. Normally my course coordinator would have been reminding me of it. When I looked at the top of the “to-do” list, there it was in black and white, first thing on the list: “Dr. Evans needs to record the overview for this module.”
There it was, written down, and I missed it cold. So I guess in that light, I don’t find it unusual that the people missed God’s instructions to them even when it was written down and chronicled in Jeremiah. The fact is, we human beings miss the memo all the time.
When we look at this in the light of our Gospel reading, however, we are reminded there is always hope, and there is always repentance. The woman with the ointment, I imagine, knew full well that some of those around her would judge her as a sinner, and her actions as “too little, too late.” The point, however, is that SHE knew, and she did what she did openly and authentically, and it was not lost on Jesus.
Finally, our reading in Acts provides a caveat–that when we are healed from the brokenness we feel from the slings and arrows of life, it’s from God–not from the person standing at the front of the altar, not from the fact we Episcopalians have a lock on the “right” brand of Christianity or ability to interpret the Bible, and not from any special goodness on our own part. It’s important to guard against Biblical and institutional idolatry. Sure, we have affinity and affection for certain parts of our shared institutional life, but it should never be mistaken as anything magical. Perhaps this is the hardest of all–look how hard Paul and Barnabas try to dissuade the assignment of god-like status to themselves and, even then, are only partly successful.
Here’s the reality–we miss the memo all the time, even when it’s written down and right under our noses. Yet it should never stop us from heading down the path of repentance, confession, and contrition–no matter what anyone else thinks of it. Finally, we are reminded to keep the focus on God as the source of our redemption.
When is a time you flat-out “missed the memo” and how did God call you back to a place of balance?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid