Tuesday: Psalm 7,8; Genesis 37.1-36; 1 Corinthians 3.1-23

From: Harmony

The older I get and the longer I am a Christian, the more my prayers look something like this: Save me from myself, merciful God. Save me from myself.
 
David gets it in Psalm 7. He asks God to save him from his enemies – enemies who would, like a lion, tear his soul apart. But then he immediately pivots and says (I’m paraphrasing): “Oh my God. Did I do this?” The goosebumps rise as you hear the horror in his voice. “Is this because of me?”
 
In Genesis 37, when Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery, they don’t engage in this self-reflection, this questioning of their own complicity, their own sin. They’re quite confident calling out the bad guy (not them) and calling down the vengeance (on someone else). And to be fair, their conclusions seem pretty justified. Their family is completely dysfunctional: their mom has always been treated as second best, their dad plays favorites with his children in a destructive and demeaning way, and their brother has explicitly threatened their position as heirs and leaders of the family. They think they have a clear enemy, and they feel justified in destroying him. But they make a terrible mistake.  
 
And then there’s the church in Corinth and their split-allegiances (to Paul, Apollo, etc.). Talk about misidentifying the enemy—these folks desperately need each other, and they can’t get past which pastor is best! They are completely mired in jealousy and pride, but it’s as if the deeper they sink, the more desperately they cling to their way above all other ways, their wisdom above all.
 
Paul has this to say: “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.” Which leads me to echo David, again:
 
Is it me?
 
Is it my pride that blocks understanding? My resentment that thwarts relationships? My fear that leads to anxiety? My greed that puts others last? Are my motives impure, my impulses faulty, my priorities all wrong?
 
I wish it wasn’t true, but I’m afraid the answer is yes. It is me. It is always me. Strangely though, there’s something freeing in that confession. It’s like trying so hard to hide a tiny stain on your shirt that you trip and fall in the mud. There it is! You’re dirty. There’s no hiding it anymore. And suddenly your dirtiness doesn’t matter so much because you find out that you are loved anyway. You are forgiven anyway. Your offerings are treasured because their value never depended on how clean you looked, but on how much you are loved.
 
We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs from under your table, dear Lord, but your nature is always—forever—and ever—to have mercy.

Amen.

I live in Brookline with my family. I love being a mom, teaching law students, advocating for immigrants, and doing lots and lots of yoga to keep my anxiety at bay. 

Thursday: Psalm 146, 147; Genesis 32.22-32; Acts 27.27-44

From: Jonathan Bailes

The story about Jacob at the river Jabbok in Genesis 32 is a bewildering, and yet beautiful, tale about the ways of God in dealing with those whom He loves. The Jacob who sets up camp at the river that night is a prosperous man, rich in wives and children, livestock and servants. Yet, as Jacob well knows, that prosperity has come at a price.  He has worked hard for what he has, and he has not been above getting his hands dirty when necessary. To get where he is, he has had to trick a beloved father and defraud an only brother. Jacob’s life seems to be a perfect illustration of a quote frequently (mis)attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left behind by those who hustle.” And in Jacob’s case, we might add, the word “hustle” is applicable in more ways than one! But that night, at the river, Jacob meets an opponent he can’t outwit or overpower, and as he begins to realize that his striving and scheming won’t help him this time, he has no hope but to cling to his enemy and plead for a blessing.

I love this story because, no matter how strange or mysterious it may seem, it bears witness to a truth with which we may all struggle, but which we will finally learn one way or another, the truth that, in order to give us life, God must first put us to death, and that though He slay us, yet can we hope in Him. God could have left Jacob alone at the Jabbok that night, left him to depend on his own effort and cunning once again. Or He could have let Esau enact his righteous vengeance on the brother who had wronged him, and thereby affirmed the truth of Romans 6, that the wages of sin is death, and of Proverbs 26, that those who dig a pit will fall into it. But He didn’t. Instead, He came to Jacob in person and he wrestled with him all night long, until Jacob learnt that God’s strength is perfected in his weakness, until Jacob, the schemer, was put to death, and Israel, the limper, was able to greet the rising sun with the blessing of his Maker. Frederick Buechner has described what Jacob experienced that night at the river as “the magnificent defeat of the human soul at the hands of God.” May I be so defeated, and may you too.

I live in Cleveland Circle with my wife Rachael and our three kids, but in two weeks that will change when we move to Texas.  In the meantime, we are reminiscing over our six years at Church of the Cross and finding ourselves continually surprised by how it has blessed us. 

Tuesday: Psalm 142, 144; Genesis 31.22-55; Acts 26

From: Anna Harris

Why does Paul have to be such a beast, and set the bar so high for the rest of us? In his public speeches recorded in the book of Acts, he speaks so eloquently. His speech before King Agrippa in Acts 26 is no exception!

As many Christians do, I admire Paul and his way with words. I admire his direct and respectful way of addressing non-believers. I love his winsome and strategic way of speaking truth. Of speaking THE central truth of who Christ is to us. Paul doesn't avoid the rational arguments that made sense in his culture (such as speaking from a religion in-bedded in the Old Testament). Paul also doesn't avoid telling the crazy story of his supernatural encounter with Jesus and how this spiritual experience changed the course of his life forever. And Paul doesn't mind involving his emotions and exposing his intents when asked directly by the king, "Are you trying to convince me to be a Christian, right here and now, in front of everyone, while I'm supposed to be hearing and judging your case (paraphrased)?" Paul's response to that question? Basically, "Well, sure, that would be awesome!" Bam. No beating around the bush and strategizing his next move and how it will be perceived to the nth degree. Just telling the truth! Alright, Paul, alright.

And then there's me. Me. Living here in America. Wondering how to talk about my Christian faith with those who don't believe Jesus was anything special—and possibly believe Jesus is quite a threat, if he ever really lived at all! I know I’m in good company with Paul, but I want to believe that the barriers I face when speaking about my faith are insurmountable. Well, I don’t want to believe that per se, but I often speak and talk as if it’s true. What is the way out of my funk? Good question—and one I’ll probably be asking for a good, long while. Feel free to join me!

I'm a hospice and adoption social worker working and living in Dorchester with my two fantastic housemates and a bun-bun, Nadia. But not for long! I will be moving soon, but don't worry; I'll stay in the area and I look forward to growing with each of you at CotC.