Week of 5 Lent, Year One
[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 31 (morning) // 35 (evening)
Our second reading this morning opens with a classic theological conundrum: How can God find fault with human beings for their cruel actions and poor choices, when they have no power to resist the will of God that makes them this way? It appears that human beings must bear all of the blame but hold none of the power in this universe. That just doesn’t seem fair.
Many generations of Christian thinkers have used this passage as a launch pad for further discussion about the relationship between personal responsibility and God’s will, and between our actions and God’s mercy (or God’s wrath). Paul’s own response to the theological question is to claim that humans have no right to argue with God. According to Paul, a molded object of clay has no right to ask the potter, “Why have you made me like this?” The potter, on the other hand, has every right to make some objects for daily use, some objects for special occasions, and some objects simply for smashing.
I’m glad that Christian theological tradition has come up with other answers since Paul got the conversation started. Christians have pointed out that Biblical tradition includes many voices that claim their right to argue and negotiate with God. Also, our Ash Wednesday liturgy, echoing the book of Wisdom, reminds God, “you hate nothing you have made.” So, Paul’s thoughts aren’t the last word on whether human beings can converse with God or on how God will ultimately treat his beloved creatures.
Perhaps the best starting-point for theological reflection is not in God’s rights as a potter to cherish or crush his created objects. Perhaps the better starting-point is even earlier, where Paul himself begins, with the question asked from what is molded to the one who molds it: “Why have you made me like this?”
At first glance in today’s reading, this question seems rebellious toward God our creator. It sounds like the questioner wants to reject or condemn some aspect of the way they’ve been made. (“Why-oh-why have you made me like this??”).
But what if we posed this question differently? What if we asked it again as if in search of our purpose, or of what makes us most lovable? “Why, O God, have you made me like this?” Today we have one more chance to live between the clay from which we were molded and the dust to which we’ll return. May we dare to ask and try to listen for why we’ve been made the way we are.
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 as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.