Readings for (Proper 25) Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost 7th October 2007 Vanderbilt Divinity Library Lectionary

For the Lectionary and other reflections, check out Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost Proper 25C / Ordinary 27C / Pentecost +19 Textweek


Lamentations 1:1-6; Psalm 137:1-9; II Timothy 1:1-14; Luke 17:5-10

‘How lonely sits the city that once was full of people! How like a widow she has become, she that was great among the nations! She that was a princess among the provinces has become a vassal. She weeps bitterly in the night.’ The reality of Lamentations is the same reality that Jesus confronts in the Garden of Gethsemane and I think it’s an alien reality in our modern culture. In our present age we’ve come up with another reality that’s based on another quite different myth. Lamentations has been replaced by whinging and cynicism, and that’s always discouraged – you shouldn’t whinge, after all what have we got to whinge about, we’ve got more than most people have. And therein lies the modern myth. We’re supposed to be happy because we’ve got more than most people, but what’s the reality?

Although the lamentations that we had in the first reading are for Jerusalem, I think that reading and its feelings so readily translate into a lamentation for life lived with sacred awareness, life that is determined by a divine orientation, life in Paul’s terms that is lived for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ. And it is that very promise of life that is in Christ that draws us to prayer. Prayer then draws us to church, to monastery, to temple, to ashram, to those who are also drawn, drawn together in faith. Drawn not to find the promise of life, as in the church, because it’s an entirely different process to shopping.

Seeking the promise of life is not a matter of coming into the religious supermarket, taking it off the shelf, going home self-satisfied; it’s a totally different process. We’re drawn to seek and to create life in Christ, to look for it and to create it, but as soon as you turn on the TV we realise how easy it is to forget a life lived with sacred awareness. It’s easy to forget and get lost in the distraction of multiple game shows, unending crime series, inane political debate and those thirty-second advertising grabs; so easy to forget.
We then hear the lament of the psalmist: ‘Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.’ There’s a really worthwhile pause there: my highest joy. Consider, what is that? I don’t think we can do it this morning, but it might be helpful: consider what is my highest joy? Paul in his letter to Timothy speaks of recalling tears, he speaks of longing to see ‘that I may be filled with joy’. He speaks of being reminded of sincere faith and of being called with a holy calling. Paul has known and knows the place of lament and so too he knows ‘my highest joy’, for Paul says in verse 12, ‘I know the one in whom I have put my trust’.

So just if we sort of summarise those readings, once again they provide some reference points for us in the present to find direction and movement toward the future. Contemplate ‘my highest joy’, look for the feeling that gives life; look for the place: where is the Jerusalem of your joy? Then lament, give imagery to the poetry of that reading from Lamentations, know yourselves as exiled from the Jerusalem of your desire, from the very place of your creation. I no longer dwell there, I am an exile in a foreign land. Next affirm yourself, for you are no longer children tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, and affirm yourselves as called with a holy calling. You are called with a holy calling, entrusted with good treasure; then acknowledge the Holy Spirit living in us - not in me not in you - in us. Contemplate ‘my highest joy’; lament, know the exile from the place of my creation; affirm myself as called with a holy calling, entrusted with good treasure, then acknowledge the Holy Spirit living in us.

They’re reference points that will lead us, as Paul says, to rekindle the gift of God that is within you. And as that flame is rekindled, it’s actually at that point that you feel the flame being rekindled, then it’s worth receiving the Gospel. The Lord replied, ‘If you had faith the size of a mustard seed…’ Our faith, our divine awareness is not about quantity, it’s all about quality, quality the size of a mustard seed.

The Lord be with you.
Peter Humphris