Confidence, Struggles, and Altruism   2 comments

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Above:  Lillies, 1597

Illustrator = John Gerard

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2005680894/)

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-60476

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The Collect:

God of tender care, like a mother, like a father, you never forget your children,

and you know already what we need.

In all our anxiety give us trusting and faithful hearts,

that in confidence we may embody the peace and justice

of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuternonomy 32:1-14 (Monday)

1 Kings 17:1-16 (Tuesday)

Isaiah 66:7-13 (Wednesday)

Psalm 104 (All Days)

Hebrews 10:32-39 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 4:6-21 (Tuesday)

Luke 12:22-31 (Wednesday)

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O Lord, how manifold are your works!

In wisdom you have made them all;

the earth is full of your creatures.

There is the sea, spread far and wide,

and there move creatures beyond number, both small and great.

There go the ships, and there is that Leviathan

which you have made to play in the deep.

All of these look to you

to give them their food in due season.

When you give it to them, they gather it;

you open your hand and they are filled with good.

When you hide your face they are troubled;

when you take away their breath,

they die and return again to the dust.

When you send forth your spirit they are created,

and you renew the face of the earth.

–Psalm 104:26-32, Common Worship (2000)

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Monotheism I affirm while acknowledging a difficulty inherent in it: God is responsible for both good and bad—at least the existence of the bad and the evil as well as the positive. Others—such as polytheists—have no such problem, for they can blame bad deities for evil while affirming the pure goodness of others. But Yahweh is on the hook. That is part of my tradition. This is an issue with which I struggle. Yet an honest theological and spiritual struggle can be a sign of a healthy faith.

We read in the Psalm and in 1 Kings that sometimes God causes misfortunes to happen. Yet they also tells us that God sends aid. Sometimes that help comes via unexpected means, so we ought to avoid becoming fixated on certain criteria.

Another theme unifying these readings is maintaining faithfulness during difficult times. God will provide, we read, so we ought to avoid thinking too much about ourselves and our needs at the expense of other people. And we should recall that which God has done. Sometimes we become so caught up in the moment that we lose perspective, assuming that we ever had any.

I, as a student of history, know that many of the worst instances of human cruelty have come in the context of conflict related to resources. These resources have been either scarce or perceived to be scarce. Other such instances have occurred during times of a threat, real or perceived. In all such circumstances of human cruelty people have harmed each other—sometimes by passive neglect, other times via actions—all while seeking to preserve oneself. Altruism has been absent.

Yet our Lord and Savior told us plainly that, whenever we aid the least of those among us, we do so to him. Likewise the negative form of the previous sentence is true. By our selfishness, fear, and lack of altuism we condemn ourselves. By wise altruism—the variety rooted in confidence in God and in the quest to do for people what they need (not necessarily what they want)–we respond faithfully in difficult times. We thereby function as vehicles of grace to others and act in accordance with the moral mandate to love our neighbors as ourselves.

That can prove quite challenging. It is, actually, possible only via grace. Sometimes merely trying to do the right thing in a difficult circumstance eludes us, so we fail. Yet I know that I ought to try again and that God knows that I am but dust. Moral perfection is not among my goals, but striving for moral improvement is.

As for God being on the hook for the problems of suffering (sometimes) and the existence of evil (always), such matters are too great for me. Perhaps the most to which I can aspire are intellectual and spiritual honesty, as unsatisfactory as they might prove.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 10, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THEODORE PARKER, ABOLITIONIST AND MAVERICK UNITARIAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY PIEROZZI, A.K.A. ANTONINUS OF FLORENCE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF FLORENCE

THE FEAST OF JOHN GOSS, ANGLICAN CHURCH COMPOSER AND ORGANIST; AND WILLIAM MERCER, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS LUDWIG VON ZINZENDORF, RENEWER OF THE CHURCH

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/05/10/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-3-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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