Psalm 24, 29 (Morning)
Psalm 8, 84 (Evening)
Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 36:1-17
1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13
Today’s readings have some fairly violent imagery associated with them. Our slave in Matthew who was just forgiven of his own debt, grabs his fellow slave, puts a choke hold on him and demands, “Pay what you owe.” Joshua ben Sira (Sirach), the prophet attributed to Ecclesiasticus, starts out like our slave in Matthew, asking for the Lord’s mercy, but it quickly turns to a request to destroy the enemy, letting survivors of destruction be consumed in fiery wrath, and crushing the heads of hostile rulers. How Quentin Tarantino is that?
What is it about human nature that we can have just narrowly escaped the wrath of the worst case scenario in a difficult chapter of our lives, then whirl on someone just as unfortunate and leave them riddled with the bullet holes of our own wrath? Humans–even the humans we love dearly, and yes, even ourselves–can be such total jerks sometimes. Some days, we’re just a mess.
Our own misplaced resentments, though, are the window to understanding how evil exists, and we should pay attention as to how that plays out on a larger scale. Really, humankind’s failings are our failings, when we get right down to it. It’s a big piece of what’s being addressed in our Confession that goes, “We repent of the evil that enslaves us, the evil we have done, and the evil done on our behalf.” We repent for being a jerk, we repent of the wrath we’ve brought down on others, and we repent of all the world’s ickiness to which we’ve averted our eyes from the carnage.
Yet, here today, smack dab in the middle of this violent set of readings today is our Epistle–the famous “love chapter” of 1 Corinthians, prefaced with the reminder that despite all that, we are the body of Christ–both corporately as a faith community, and as individuals. In the midst of all this broken-ness–our personal jerkiness, our individual and corporate wrath, and standing knee-deep in the cesspool of all that’s wrong in the world–we are simultaneously surrounded by love, patience, kindness, and rejoicing.
We exist in a plurality, not a duality. Christ’s resurrection–the ultimate nose-thumbing at death and destruction–is our hope that there is always something better–not merely in an afterlife but in the here and now. Yes, it’s important–very important–that we start the seeds of that hope in our own repentances and conversion of our own lives–but where the rubber meets the road is when we slowly begin to, with God’s help, change the culture from one of wrath to one of love as a corporate body.
It’s easy to feel overcome and easy to feel overwhelmed when we follow the news of the world and in our communities. Yet, Paul’s Epistle today reminds us that we are a Resurrection people–always transforming, and always moving (perhaps at a snail’s pace, but still moving) towards the restoration of the world. “Even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.”
When is a time you’ve seen misplaced wrath and unbridled joy all rolled together in the same story in your life? Which got your attention–the wrath, or the love?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, is a grateful member of Trinity Episcopal Church and a postulant to the priesthood in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. She occasionally finds time to write about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid.
“Domenico Fetti 001” by Domenico Fetti – The Yorck Project: . Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons