Righteousness Sets Things Right

Scripture Focus: Job 29.2-3, 12-17
“How I long for the months gone by,
    for the days when God watched over me,
when his lamp shone on my head
    and by his light I walked through darkness!…
…Whoever heard me spoke well of me,
    and those who saw me commended me,
because I rescued the poor who cried for help,
    and the fatherless who had none to assist them.
The one who was dying blessed me;
    I made the widow’s heart sing.
I put on righteousness as my clothing;
    justice was my robe and my turban.
I was eyes to the blind
    and feet to the lame.
I was a father to the needy;
    I took up the case of the stranger.
I broke the fangs of the wicked
    and snatched the victims from their teeth.

Reflection: Righteousness Sets Things Right
By John Tillman

When we think of righteousness today, we tend to think first about achieving righteousness via elimination. We seek to avoid sin, to abstain from certain food and drink, to abjure the company of certain people, or to censor our experience of the world. These things may be wise measures for avoiding temptation but they are not marks of righteousness. 

Limiting our exposure to certain things in order to remain righteous is a confession of our unrighteous state. Light does not avoid darkness to remain light—it pierces the darkness and the darkness cannot overwhelm it. Job acknowledges that the light of righteousness that used to be his was not his own, but came from the presence of God shining through him. Rather than focus on righteousness by omission, Job describes the righteousness of commission. 

In Job’s example, righteousness is connected to and related to justice. The word sedeq, translated “righteous,” is often translated “just,” “justice,” “fairly,” and “rights,” it also is often paired with mispat, which is in this passage translated “justice,” but can mean “law,” or “judge.” 

Righteousness, as Job describes it is marked by formidable, positive actions on behalf of justice. Righteousness sets things right. Job defines his righteousness by his use of power, wealth, and influence to benefit the weak, the marginalized, and the victimized. 

When Job walked in, the powerful trembled. They recognized an enemy who would break their “fangs” which were their means of holding onto prey and exerting their poisonous control.

When Job walked in, those taking advantage of the poor would lose their control and investment. When Job walked in, abusers knew their time was up. 

When Job walked in, the needy rejoiced. When Job walked in, the outcast celebrated. When Job walked in, the fatherless felt the power of a father on their side. When Job walked in widows knew that they would no longer suffer indignity or disregard.

When the church and Christians walk in righteousness, it will be the powerful who tremble at our approach. It will be oppressors who pray that we do not show up. It will be swindling money-lenders who dread us setting their debtors free.

Do you walk in righteousness? Ask yourself this question. Who gets nervous when you approach? Do the powerful pat you on the back? Or do the oppressed consider you a friend?

Righteousness isn’t righteous if it makes the wrong people nervous.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Keep watch over my life, for I am faithful; save your servant whose trust is in you. — Psalm 86.2

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 29 (Listen -2:26)
1 Corinthians 15 (Listen -8:06)

This Weekend’s Readings
Job 30 (Listen -3:14)
1 Corinthians 16 (Listen -2:54)

Read more about Praise God for the Justice of the Gospel
We can and should be agents of justice to the best of our ability. But we also know that ultimate justice cannot be completed by this world’s systems.

Read more about Joy and Justice :: Joy of Advent
The justice we long for will come yet, as we wait, we represent the justice and righteousness of Christ on Earth.

Where is Wisdom :: A Guided Prayer

Scripture Focus: Job 28.20-21
Where then does wisdom come from?
Where does understanding dwell?
It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing,
concealed even from the birds in the sky.

Reflection: Where is Wisdom :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

As February winds down, we pause to seek God’s wisdom in a responsive prayer beginning with the words of Job.

Finding Wisdom:

“There is a mine for silver
and a place where gold is refined…
But where can wisdom be found?
Where does understanding dwell?”

Reflect briefly on some decisions you have made. Move chronologically backward. Spend no more than sixty seconds weighing each one as wise or unwise.

Reflect on one from yesterday.
Then one from the weekend.
Then one from last week.
Then one from two weeks or more.
Now return to the words of Job on wisdom’s value.

“No mortal comprehends its worth;
it cannot be found in the land of the living.
The deep says, ‘It is not in me’;
the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’
It cannot be bought with the finest gold,
nor can its price be weighed out in silver.”

Reflect on some places you have looked for wisdom.
Articles? Advisors? Academic research?

Thank God for human wisdom! We must, however, confess to God that human wisdom can only take us as far as human understanding, which even the greatest of scientists would admit continually finds more questions than it answers.

Ask God to open to us the true and timeless wisdom that comes from one unlimited source.

“God understands the way to it
and he alone knows where it dwells,
…he looked at wisdom and appraised it;
he confirmed it and tested it.
And he said to the human race,
‘The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom.’”

Thank God for his wisdom that is first of all pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

Ask God for his continual grace to grant you his wisdom in each moment of the remaining week, the remaining month, and the rest of this year.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Behold, God is my helper; it is the Lord who sustains my life. — Psalm 54.4

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 28 (Listen -2:44)
1 Corinthians 14 (Listen -5:40)

Read more about The Root of Wisdom
You have made us for yourself and our hearts find no peace until they rest in you.

Read more about Seeking after a Seeking God
Wherever and however we draw near to God, he will draw near to us.

Lent is a Community Project

Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 13.9-12
For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Matthew 5.48
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Reflection: Lent is a Community Project
By John Tillman

C.S. Lewis says, “‘Be ye perfect’ is not idealistic gas,…Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command.” Lewis continues:

“You must realize from the outset that the goal towards which he is beginning to guide you is absolute perfection; and no power in the whole universe, except yourself, can prevent him from taking you to that goal.”

“Many of us, when Christ has enabled us to overcome one or two sins that were an obvious nuisance, are inclined to feel (though we do not put it into words) that we are now good enough. He has done all we wanted him to do, and we should be obliged if he would now leave us alone. As we say, “I never expected to be a saint, I only wanted to be a decent ordinary chap.” And we imagine when we say this that we are being humble.”

But the Spirit of Christ will not settle for making us feel better about ourselves.
If Lent is only a reduction in consumption, we have failed to be nourished by it.
If Lent is only lost weight we have lost the weight of its importance.
If Lent is only valuable for fleshly improvements we achieve, we have failed to value what we could gain.

Lent is not conquering one or two sins or habits we find annoying about ourselves. The fasting in Lent is a community project we engage in as a partnership between us, the Holy Spirit, and Christ’s body, the Church. Its goal is a part of our ever-increasing pursuit of Christ’s prayer that we be perfected in him.

“Make no mistake,” he says, “If you let me, I will make you perfect. You have free will and, if you chose, you can push me away. But if you do not push me away, understand that I am going to see this job through. Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life, whatever inconceivable purification it may cost you after death, whatever it costs me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect—until my father can say without reservation that he is well pleased with you, as he said he was well pleased with me.”

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Send forth your strength, O God; establish, O God, what you have wrought for us. — Psalm 68.28

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 27 (Listen -2:21)
1 Corinthians 13 (Listen -2:23)

Read more about Mirrors and Sanctification
May we follow the example of these women to transform our use of technology for spiritual purposes.

Read more about More and More and Less and Less :: Guided Prayer
We cannot do “more and more” of the things Christ calls us to without doing “less and less” of some other things.

Where Would the Body Be?

Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 12:19-20, 24b-26
If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Reflection: Where Would the Body Be?
By Jon Polk

Ever stubbed your pinky toe? Or hit your funny bone? There’s nothing funny about it. It hurts! Even the seemingly most insignificant, minuscule, overlooked parts of our body let us know when they are in extreme pain.

The human body is one of the most complex systems in existence, with 206 bones, over 650 muscles, almost 8 pounds of skin, and numerous ligaments, veins, and arteries. Intricate complexity, yet with remarkable unity.

It is no surprise that Paul utilizes the image of the body as a metaphor for the Church. After all, it was a common ancient image to describe systems and structures. However, body imagery had mainly been used to emphasize and enforce hierarchical social structures, ensuring that each person was kept in their proper place.

Paul’s view of the Church as a body is the exact opposite. Diversity and interdependence of body parts reinforce equality in God’s kingdom. The supposed weaker parts are just as important as the ones that tend to receive more attention.

In his commentary on this passage, Richard Hays writes

“The body is internally differentiated in accordance with the design of God; without such differentiation, the body would be grotesque and helpless, all eye or all ear. For that reason, no member of the body (church) should ever think that he or she is worthless or unimportant.”

Many of our relationships are functional or transactional. What can the hand do for me? Why is the eye not working properly? Foot, why can’t you keep us stable?

The parts (people) that appear to do more, tend to get more attention. And the lesser parts (people) are overlooked. The ear wants to be an eye. The big toe wants to be the heart. We believe the lies that we’re not good enough or important enough to be used by the body.

That’s not how God intends his body to be. Through Christ, we share in one another’s lives. We work for the good of all, not just for our own selfish desires. In God’s design, when the body of Christ is functioning properly, we share burdens and we share joys. In God’s body, every part needs the others.

“How can the hand say to the eye, “I don’t need you, I’ll get by without you.”
How can the eye say to the hand, “I don’t need your touch, you don’t understand what I do.”
Ain’t no use in foolin’ ourselves, you need me and I need you.”
            (“I Need You”, John Cox – Live Performance; Album – “Sunny Day”)

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the Lord; shout for joy, all who are true of heart. — Psalm 32.12

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 25-26 (Listen -1:52)
1 Corinthians 12 (Listen -4:25)

Read more about Making Him Known :: A Guided Prayer
May your prayer for us be fulfilled, Jesus…”I pray for those who will believe…that all of them may be one”

Read more about Hearts God Moves :: Epiphany
One of the gifts of Christ is that we become a part of Epiphany—Christ’s manifestation—as we fulfill our role in the body of Christ.

Proclaiming The Lord’s Death and Ours

Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 11.26
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Reflection: Proclaiming The Lord’s Death and Ours
By John Tillman

When we partake in the Lord’s Supper it is not just Christ’s death we proclaim. We are aligning ourselves with him, stretching out upon our own cross with him as our model.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, widens the traditional definition of Christ’s Passion. 

“Christ’s time of passion begins not with Holy Week but with the first day of his preaching…His renunciation of the empire as a kingdom of this world takes place not at Golgotha but at the very beginning.”

“Jesus could have been Lord of this world. As the Messiah the Jews had dreamed of, he could have freed Israel and led it to fame and honor. He is a remarkable man, who is offered dominion over the world even before the beginning of his ministry. And it is even more remarkable that he turns down this offer. He knows that for this dominion he would have to pay a price that is too high for him. It would come at the cost of obedience to God’s will.”

“Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him” (Luke 4:8). Jesus knows what that means. It means lowliness, abuse, persecution. It means remaining misunderstood. It means hate, death, the cross. And he chooses this way from the beginning. It is the way of obedience and the way of freedom, for it is the way of God. And therefore it is also the way of love for human beings.”

We begin Lent this Wednesday, as a way of reminding us that we are incapable of walking this way of love without Christ’s power working in us. We see this expressed in Bonhoeffer’s Lenten Prayer:

I Cannot Do This Alone
O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray
And to concentrate my thoughts on you;
I cannot do this alone.
In me there is darkness,
But with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways,
But you know the way for me….
Restore me to liberty,
And enable me to live now
That I may answer before you and before men.
Lord whatever this day may bring,
Your name be praised.
Amen

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
You strengthen me more and more; you enfold me and comfort me. — Psalm 71.21

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 24 (Listen -2:56)
1 Corinthians 11 (Listen -4:20)

Read more about Meals Together, Forgiveness to Go
What if all our meals were markers—altars of forgiveness and belonging?

Read more about Daily Bread for Others :: Worldwide Prayer
Praying for daily bread includes an acknowledgment of our need for intentional connection with God.

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