I had no plan to write about this morning’s biblical readings when I sat down at the keyboard this afternoon. But that’s often how writing is with me. I sit down to write one thing and out comes another. I guess the stronger words reign victorious in their fight for life.
Of course, the Bible is full of strong words, many which make for disturbing thoughts. Sometimes I’m desolate after my morning quiet time, as I see that people across time haven’t changed much — and that the changes for good within myself are painfully slow. Perhaps, in some ways, we are all slow learners, especially when it comes to learning the lessons that matter most in life.
This morning’s reading from Psalms was a variation on the old “eye-for-an-eye” theme. Most would agree that there is nothing wrong in expecting value for value; to settle for anything less than what we are due is to be taken advantage of — and God knows, I feel stupid when I’ve let someone get the best of me.
Yet, in my favorite prayer chair this morning, I felt more disturbed than stupid, as I listened to the psalmist’s heart-wrenching prayer. Distilling through all the rhetoric, I heard the psalmist’s pray boil down to this: “We scratched your back and now God, it’s your turn to scratch ours. Don’t let us down, man.”
I wonder how the psalmist prayer sat with God, as I flee for the good news of John. After the Psalms, I’m in need of a bit of good news. But it doesn’t take long for my eyes to water as truth splashes me in the face.
I’m now sitting with Jesus, who is pouring out his heart to teach others about his family business. Jesus it seems, is full of heavenly notions about what it really means to love God and what it really means to love one another. It’s clear that Jesus is upsetting the apple cart with lessons that don’t quite mesh with his audience’s way of thinking. Doesn’t Jesus see that he’s letting his listeners down?
I finally escape to John’s first epistle where I see the old apostle imploring his flock to love. “All you need is love, folks — heavenly business is simple enough for a baby to do,” John seems to say. “There’s no need to worry about whose turn it is to do what, forget about keeping tallies, everyone’s a winner when love trumps fear.”
This doddering saint seems to be saying that when we let one another down, we let down God and worse of all — at least in God’s eye — we let down ourselves. Heavenly business seems to be about stooping down to pick up the ones that are let down by life and making them the apple of our eyes. Back scratching is just one way to express it.