Week of 2 Epiphany, Year Two[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 38 (morning) // 119:25-48 (evening)
The author of today’s second reading sets up a familiar set of alternatives: either receive God’s blessing, or endure God’s wrath. The image that the author chooses to express these alternatives is a field and its crop. On the one hand, “Ground that drinks up the rain falling on it repeatedly, and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God.” According to this logic, if we allow God to nourish us and to help us grow, and if our lives are useful to God and our neighbors, we will be blessed.
On the other hand, if the ground “produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and on the verge of being cursed; its end is to be burned over.” So, what will it be: Crops, or thorns? Usefulness, or worthlessness? A blessing, or a curse? Flourishing, or all-consuming fire? Seems like an easy choice.
What intrigues me most, though, is that this passage can’t bear to entertain the second of the two alternatives for long. After the threat of burning, the author writes, “Even though we speak in this way, beloved, we are confident of better things in your case, things that belong to salvation.” The passage leaves off the approach of threatening people with burning and instead calls the people beloved and expresses confidence that God will attend to their continual growth.
Given the choice between what sounds like heaven and hell, the author can’t help but be “confident of better things.” Can we learn to trust this same confidence? Can we too listen for that quiet but nagging confidence that God has much better things to give us than two stark and harsh alternatives? This confidence might give us less certainty than a choice between flourishing in heaven or burning in hell, but it’s a confidence that is much more deserving of our trust.
Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and assists with education, young adult ministry, and campus ministry at St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.