Crushing Bruised Reeds

Scripture Focus: Job 21.2-3, 7
​​2 “Listen carefully to my words; 
let this be the consolation you give me. 
3 Bear with me while I speak, 
and after I have spoken, mock on. 

7 Why do the wicked live on, 
growing old and increasing in power? 

Psalm 31.5. 9-11
5 Into your hands I commit my spirit; 
deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

9 Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; 
my eyes grow weak with sorrow, 
my soul and body with grief. 
10 My life is consumed by anguish 
and my years by groaning; 
my strength fails because of my affliction, s 
and my bones grow weak. 
11 Because of all my enemies, 
I am the utter contempt of my neighbors 
and an object of dread to my closest friends— 
those who see me on the street flee from me. 

Reflection: Crushing Bruised Reeds
By John Tillman

The rising rancor between Job and his friends would have cooled if they were willing to soften their absolutisms. 

Job’s friends declared that scripture was clear: “God always cuts short the wicked! God always blesses the righteous!” Job pointed to prosperous wicked people and said, “not always.”

Job’s friends refused to moderate their positions or admit to a complex and nuanced world. They doubled down and denied, growing harsher in their words instead of softer. They lumped Job in with the wicked because of his arguments. It all feels very familiar…

“In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.” 

Rupertus (Peter) Meldenius, a seldom remembered theologian, wrote this in the midst of a seldom remembered war. (It’s often attributed to more well-known names who quoted it, such as John Wesley. In fact, I nearly attributed it to Wesley before looking it up to check my memory…) 

Meldenius called for Christian unity during the 30 Years War (1618–1648), a semi-religious conflict. At this time, all governments were inherently religious in nature. (It can be easy to forget how new the ideas of separation of church and state and religious freedom are.) The conflict was mostly political violence painted with religious veneer. Similarly veneered violence still happens. The violence of the January 6th insurrection still rings in our ears and the hostage situation at Beth Israel was a mere six miles from my front door.

Meldenius was on to something. He would recognize our political and religious landscape and the potential horrors it could lead to. However, Meldenius’s statement loses efficacy as people add more and more issues to the “essentials” pile. 

When everything is “essential” there is no “liberty” and “charity” is called “heresy.” Christian leaders seem to be less and less willing to grant liberty to one another on any issue. Camps are moving farther apart and rancor has risen to the point that some decry religious freedom as “supporting hell.”

We do not need to abandon essentials to charitably embrace those in distress who struggle to define “essentials.” (Psalm 31.9-10) They need love, not contempt. (Psalm 31.11)

May we not snuff out smoldering wicks of faith with non-essential dogma or crush bruised reeds with a bootheel of “tough love.” (Isaiah 42.3; Matthew 12.20-21) May we use cords of loving-kindness to lead people to repentance rather than tie up heavy loads on the backs of the struggling. (Hosea 11.4; Matthew 23.4)

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Save me, O God, for the waters have risen up to my neck. — Psalm 69.1

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 21 (Listen – 3:05)
Psalm 31 (Listen – 3:11)

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Read more about Responding to Political Violence
Despite our sense of moral superiority, we have not advanced beyond violence for political ends.

From Shameless to Blameless

Scripture Focus: Psalm 31.1-2, 16-17
1 In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; 
let me never be put to shame; 
deliver me in your righteousness. 
2 Turn your ear to me, 
come quickly to my rescue; 
be my rock of refuge, 
a strong fortress to save me. 

16 Let your face shine on your servant; 
save me in your unfailing love. 
17 Let me not be put to shame, Lord, 
for I have cried out to you; 
but let the wicked be put to shame 
and be silent in the realm of the dead. 

Reflection: From Shameless to Blameless
By John Tillman

In many psalms, experiencing or avoiding shame is connected to the absence or presence of God. The shame David prophesied for his enemies is caused by being separated from God. And even though, in life, David will experience slander and shame, ultimately, his accusers will be shown to be liars and he will be vindicated.

God’s face shining on us is assurance against shame. But how can we see God’s face and live? How can we stand before God without shame? Shouldn’t we still feel the same sinful shame that drove Adam and Eve into the shrubs, naked and afraid, hiding from God and each other?

And what of David? Was he sinless? Did he not take vengeance, commit war crimes, commit adultery by taking multiple wives and concubines in addition to taking (and possibly raping) Bathsheba? Did he not commit murder? Did he not both order the death of his enemies by his own power and plead with God for divine vengeance against others? Is there a crime his accusers could name that would NOT be true? Why should he be vindicated? How can he, or we, be blameless? 

Those unashamed of sin, reveling in and defending their sin, will be shamed. These people argue that their sins of pride are just walking in their gifting, their sins of lust are just following desires God gave, and their sins of greed are just rejoicing in God’s financial blessings. They call God culpable and themselves innocent.

We cannot shamelessly sin and stand before God. Those who acknowledge their sins before God, instead of defending them, will find acquittal instead of condemnation. David’s only hope and refuge from shame is being delivered into the righteousness of God. So is ours.

Christ was shamed that we could be called righteous. Christ destroyed the mechanism of shame by taking the full force of its blows on the cross yet rising victorious forevermore. The glory and righteousness he gained, he gives to the humble and repentant.

It is into Christ’s righteousness that we flee for defense against shameful sin. There we are remade into the likeness of his righteousness. 

Who are we today? 
Are we shamelessly sinful, defending our sins?
Or are we humbly repentant, called blameless ONLY in Christ?
Let us come to him confessing and mournful, that we may go out rejoicing and professed as righteous.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; wash me, and I shall be clean indeed. — Psalm 51.8

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

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 24 (Listen – 2:58)
Psalms 31 (Listen – 3:11)

Read more about In the Face of Mockery and Shame
To some crucifixion is simply extreme punishment…But crucifixion carries another, important implication—shame.

Read more about The Crux of Repentance
We often are so unwilling to renounce anything. So unwilling to part with anything. So unwilling to lay down anything.

The Prayer From the Cross

Psalm 30.11-12
You turned my wailing into dancing;
   you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
   Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

Reflection: The Prayer From the Cross
By John Tillman

On the day the Church now calls Good Friday, when Jesus hung on the cross and cried out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani,” people were confused about what he meant. Some even thought he was crying out to Elijah.

Truthfully, we don’t know exactly what was in Christ’s mind, and we also don’t know that he wasn’t thinking multiple things all at the same time, as most humans do in stressful and painful situations.

The clearest, simplest explanation that I lean toward is that Jesus was intentionally quoting Psalm 22, which appeared in our reading plan on Palm Sunday. Jesus knew that most of his audience would recognize the quote and understand that he was referencing the entire psalm. If I said, “To be or not to be,” many people would recognize that I was referencing Hamlet’s entire monologue and its meaning. People less familiar with Hamlet might be confused. Some might think it was from some other source, such as an Arnold Schwarzenegger film.

So, on this Good Friday, we will join Christ in his suffering, praying excerpts from this psalm prayed on the cross, ending with excerpts from Psalm 30 from our reading for today.

Make these psalms our prayer, today and over Holy Saturday as we await the joy of resurrection morn.

Praying with Christ, from the Cross (Psalm 22):
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
   Why are you so far from saving me,
   so far from my cries of anguish?

All who see me mock me;
   they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
   “let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
   since he delights in him.”

Yet you brought me out of the womb;
   you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
From birth I was cast on you;
   from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

You who fear the Lord, praise him!
  For he has not despised or scorned
   the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
   but has listened to his cry for help.

Future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness,
   declaring to a people yet unborn:
   He has done it!

Weeping may stay for the night,
   but rejoicing comes in the morning.

You turned my wailing into dancing;
   you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? And are so far from my cry and from the words of my distress?  — Psalm 22.1

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

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 23 (Listen – 6:31) 
Psalm 30 (Listen – 2:41)

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 24 (Listen – 2:58) Psalm 31 (Listen – 3:11)
Leviticus 25 (Listen – 7:41) Psalm 32 (Listen – 1:34)

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Read more about Joy in The Way of the Cross :: Throwback Thursday
You will find the joy of the Lord comes as you go on in the way of the Cross. It was one who had nobody all his own on earth who said, “If I am offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice.” (Philippians 2.17)

Read more about Where Martyrdom Begins Part 1
It’s easy to think that when Jesus referred to laying his life down for his friends, he was referring to his imminent death on the cross. But stopping there simplifies what Jesus did — and what he said — into one single act.