Dear Lord, you are indeed faithful, more faithful than we can imagine and more faithful than we deserve. This week we celebrate peace and joy and your salvation. We celebrate it even as we know we need it ever more. Thank you for this season to remember what you have done and remind us what you are doing, all which gives us hope in what you have in store.
Be with us as we gather together with others, stilling our hearts, easing our minds, helping us to see the world as you see it, to love this world as you so love it, to give and share what we have just as you have given so much to us. May the work of Christ that began in a small out of the way manger resonate ever farther and deeper throughout this world, as well as farther and deeper into my own community.
1. Psalm 75-76
2. Reading through 2 Kings 10-20
If only we can elect the right person. It’s those other people that are the problem. People just need a strong leader to get them going. We need to take control of the situations.
We get caught up in frenzy of power: seeking power, maintaining power. The systems of the world tell us how these must be done, how to get power and what to do with it. The world also tells us how to use our success, asserting our will over others and displaying how much capability we have by the stuff we can show off.
If we’ve learned one thing in our reading through the Bible so far it’s that the world doesn’t know what it is doing. People have goals. They have desires. Identity is found in meeting these goals and fulfilling these desires.
At least for a little while.
We might gain for ourselves but that involves undermining others. Or we might achieve one desire but sacrifice the rest of our self, our family, our community. Do we care? As long as we get what we want, why should we?
That’s no way to live.
Really, that’s not the way life was intended to be. Pursuing the chaos of the world provides a narrow experience of life for us and leads to death for others.
Don’t believe me? Look at those who “have it all.” Like in the passages we’re reading this week. Kings and leaders, yet stumbling, fighting, stealing, ruining. Kingdoms crumble and with them there is devastating loss for both the powerful and the lowly.
God seeks after people, he calls them, he reminds them, he encourages them. But there comes a point at which God says enough is enough. To save the people he has to stop the crazed frenzy that puts the whole nation into a death spiral.
He lets the kingdoms crash. But this isn’t a sign of his weakness. God sends prophets to say, “This is what I am doing.” And he sends them not only to clarify the judgment but also to provide a vision of hope in the midst of it all.
The prophet we end these chapters with is the prophet who also spoke these words, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Compare the kingdoms in this chapter with the way of Jesus we discover in the Gospels, the way that Paul talks about in his letters.
Which way will you follow this week? It’s not in the ruling of kingdoms that we show our allegiance, as few of us have that power. But we all have our own kingdoms: the reach of our will and desires.
We are given examples of the way of death and we are given guidance to the way of life.
The ways of the world, all the frenzy and panic and pride, lead to death. The way of God invites us to something more, to let go the trappings of the world’s power, because God’s vision of life is much grander than the world can ever imagine.
3. Reading Through 2 Corinthians 1-7
Power struggles happen everywhere. Anywhere there’s a group of people and some kind of goal, there will be a power struggle of one kind or another as people have different ideas of what matters, how to achieve success, who gets to wear the fancy hat and carry the ceremonial bean bag. Sometimes the power struggles make sense and sometimes they seem to just pop up because people like the chaos.
Here’s the lesson throughout the Bible: people do like chaos.
There are people who are caught in distractions and anxieties. Some even use the name of God and make claims about spiritual wisdom, but they are caught in battles of wills and the frenzy of death. That’s not to say that these are all bad people, or not especially bad. There’s a lot of power struggles and indulging of chaos by those who have good motives, who think they are doing what is right, that they are on God’s side.
What is the way of God? It’s not just a set of rules or a package of goals. There’s a way of being, a hope that derives from walking with Christ in the power of the Spirit. Even if we are on the right path, however, we aren’t shielded from the chaos. We get pulled in and poured on, messed up.
The challenge then is to keep walking in tune with the Spirit, not letting the chaos of others pull us off the road into the muck and mire. How we respond to adversity, how we respond to the sins of others, how we response to the challenges of life no matter how they come are themselves moments of God’s calling in our life.
In these chapters, Paul shares his own ministry journey and calling. He shares his calling as a way of affirmation and asserts his spiritual authority in a Spirit-led way.
As you read, notice what he affirms and what he focuses on. Notice also how he frames his letter, what does he begin with in these chapters, how does he develop his theme of reconciliation?
What is Paul’s goal for the church in Corinth? Hint, it’s not his own power or esteem. So how would you summarize his goal?
4. Psalm 77
If you’ve fallen behind in the readings or haven’t started yet, don’t worry. Reading the Bible isn’t a limited time offer. Jump in this week, and catch up with what you’ve missed in future years.
Also, I highly encourage you to share your thoughts with others in your family, or immediate community. Talk about this stuff!
And, since I sometimes feel lonely, share your thoughts in the comment section.
Talking about your thoughts and questions is a very important part of the reading goal. Writing out our thoughts can help us remember what we read and keep our minds on the passage. It also is very helpful to share as we learn from each other.
Even our questions or confusion can bring us together, as we highlight what others may have missed or address what a lot of us are also wondering. Don’t feel like you have to say or write a lot, or feel pressure to be profound. Respond with honesty and openness.
Just jump right in where you’re at, knowing that Christ invites you to respond without pressure or anxiety. It’s a journey not a performance.