6/3: Righteousness and Mercy

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2 Pentecost, June 3

1 Sam. 3:1-10 (11-20) or Deut. 5:12-15
Ps. 139:1-5, 12-17 or Ps. 81:1-10
2 Cor. 4:5-12Mark 2:23-3:6

While the boy Samuel is lying down in the house of the God, the Lord calls, not once or twice, but three times. Test every spirit and every voice. Doubt first and consult those whom you trust. At the urging of Eli, Samuel returns to his rest ready to hear, if it may be, the voice of the Lord. The Lord says, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle” (1 Sam. 3:11). The Lord speaks judgment against Eli and his sons for blasphemy, for the sons of Eli have freely pillaged meat offerings and have abused, for their pleasure, women who sit at the tent of meeting. Ceremonial corruption, in this case theft, and sexual abuse are sins ever ancient, ever new. God is not mocked. “Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever” (1 Sam. 3:14). Even religion can run out, exhaust itself in the vain attempt to hide.

“God looks down from heaven on humankind, to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God. They have all fallen away, they are all alike perverse; there is no one who does good, no, not one” (Ps. 53:2-3). Indeed, to quote from Hamlet, “use every man after his desert, and who shall ’scape whipping?” An avenging God fierce in righteousness is a crushing thought to a formed and sensitive conscience. One day tells its tale to another. One thought awaits its compliment. “Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent” (Collect for Ash Wednesday; Wis. 11:24). “O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy” (Collect for Proper 21). God’s seeing is holy judgment; and yet God looks with the contemplative gaze of everlasting love. God beholds.

The Word is very near you, and its proximity is love and love’s truthfulness. Here consolation is bracing and the burden of truth borne by love. It is a fearful thing and a loving thing to know that God has searched me and known me, sits with me, rises with me, sees my path, and knows all my ways, is behind me and before me, lays a hand upon me (Ps. 139:1-4). These thoughts are wonderful, weighty, and vast (Ps. 139:17). Still, this is more a burden than a blessing if divine righteousness remains at eternal war with divine love. No! Christ has conquered sin, the flesh, and the devil. The righteousness imputed to us, in Christ, is love and light. Through “light shin[ing] out of the darkness,” God gives “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).

This light and knowledge resides in clay vessels, frail flesh, mortal beings subject to affliction and confusion, persecution and abasement. When we are weak, however, we are strong in Christ, knowing that “this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us” (2 Cor. 4:7). Strangely, our failure, our weakness, and our fear witness to Christ who is our inner light and our true life. Christ in us is not crushed, driven to despair, forsaken, or destroyed. Christ is in our hearts, giving a deep and mystical knowledge of triune love.

Your desperate need and your obvious failure help you pass through the eye of a needle. In truth, it is Christ who comes to you as your Sabbath, your food, and your restoration (Mark 2:23-3:6).

Look It Up
Read 2 Corinthians 4:10.

Think About It
Your body holds the death and life of Jesus.


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