Week 22: Chaos and Love

Readings for the week: Psalm 66-67, 2 Samuel 13-24, 1 John, 2 John, 3 JohnPsalm 68 Listen to these passages

Opening Prayer:

 Dear Lord, thank you for your goodness. Thank you for your promise. Thank you that we have hope. I pray for discernment as I try to sort out truth from lies. I pray for peace in my life and in those around me. I pray that I can hear your voice this week and walk the walk you have set before me. Remind me that you’re working, that you’re active. Don’t let me listen to the lies that try to pull me down or pull me away. 

Help me to see how I can come alongside people this week. Help me to be the person you’ve called me to be. Forgive me when I don’t quite make it. Thank you for the grace that keeps with me all the while.  Be with those who are lonely and who are caught in traps they don’t know how to get out of. Be with us as we seek your kingdom in our neighborhood.  Amen.

1. Psalm 66-67

2. Reading through 2 Samuel 13-24

Life is messy.  Sometimes we cause the mess. Sometimes we have to clean up the mess other people cause.  There’s a tendency in life to keep the messy side of things in one category and our spiritual side in another. We have politics, the news, family drama, car repairs, practices for this and for that, all put into our “living life” category. Then we have church, prayer, Bible reading, “love your neighbor,” and such in another category.

The first category tends to crowd out the second, and then we get caught up in life and wonder where God is at.  If we don’t know any better, we can even start making lots of assumptions about how God works, where God is working, who God will work in.  And our answers can easily become not “like this,” “not here,” and “not in me.”  We leave the spiritual to the spiritual people and get on with life as the world tells us to get on with it. It’s tiring, but that’s how it is.

When we read the Bible, however, it becomes impossible to idealize this world and God’s expectations of us. This week we’re reading about David, that icon of faithfulness, a friend to God, a foundational figure in the whole Biblical testimony.  This week, the readings begin with a horrible rape.  Then revenge. Then betrayal, and devastation, retaliation.  Heartbreak.  Discouragement.  Family trauma well beyond what most of us are dealing with.

God isn’t very much honored in these parts of the story.  It seems that life overcomes the emphasis on God. Yet, it’s all in the Bible. Why? Because, I think, that the Bible’s continuing emphasis is that God doesn’t need the right setting.  If you don’t think you’re good enough for God’s work, have you see who God works in throughout the Bible?

If you think everything has to be clean and right, these passages show how God is not a delicate, sheltered, isolated, being we have to protect. God knows the worst. And God still continues to work.  Humanity is messy. You think this is news to God?  All the promises, all the invitations, all the calls to persevere, are stated in the midst of the messiness of human history.

The challenge we have is not to wait until we’re ready. Or wait until we think God won’t be offended. God isn’t an important house guest that requires us cleaning everything from top to bottom.  The challenge is that today, right now, in the midst of the messiness we have a choice of whether we will be faithful to God and reflect God’s calling or if we will try to force our own way, make God just an idol we pull out every so often.

David was faithful and David was also a mess.  Life was messy in the midst of his bounty. The grass isn’t greener on the side of his successes.  When he stumbled he caused chaos.  But God wasn’t done with him or with Israel.  God is not done for us and God doesn’t need for us to fix it all. What God wants, what God invites us to, is to see life through the lens of chapter 22.  “Therefore I will praise you, Lord,” David writes.  Because God is doing a work in a world that doesn’t deserve it and doesn’t often even want it.  It’s a work we’re invited into and in joining this, we become those who help bring hope in God’s work.

3. Reading Through 1 John, 2 John, 3 John

John was one of the disciples closest to Jesus. He was the one who didn’t hide from Jesus during the crucifixion. His brother was martyred for believing in Jesus, and John kept on, preaching and serving and sharing.

When we look at Jesus we see who God is and who people are supposed to be. I like to think that when we read John’s writings, we see what a Christian is supposed to be like. It’s not idealistic and it’s not defeatist.  It’s hope-filled, promise-oriented, engaged with the world in light of God’s big mission in and for this world. One of my favorite stories about John isn’t in the Bible, it’s from the writings of an early church leader named Clement. I think it so illustrates what John is calling us to be like in a troubled world.  I copied it to my website a while back, I encourage you to read it. I’ll wait…

What did you think?  What I love about it is that it’s not waiting for things to get right on their own. It’s an active and risk-taking expression of love, needed precisely because life is complicated and we can often make wrong turns, and those around us do as well. We bump into each other, confusing and frustrating, making it easy to try to seclude ourselves in a world where God isn’t discussed or a world where we are self-righteous about everyone else.

God’s love isn’t like that. God seeks us out, wherever we’re at. God invites us, whatever we’ve done. We’re called to reflect this love, and even though we stumble and mess up, confounded by all the other ways the world tells us to live, God doesn’t give up on us.

Love isn’t a pretty word for sappy movies. Love isn’t a bubble filled, sentimental feeling. Love is a passion for others, a commitment, a willingness to invest in them and open up to them.  God loves. What does God want for us? What is God’s calling for us? Where can we find hope and life and possibility.  Don’t wait.  Don’t succumb to the greed or the despair.

Do what John says. He’s writing to us. And he knows what he is talking about. He spent his whole life in expression of this love. It’s a calling because it’s transforming.  It’s God’s mission because the world misses it.

What is God calling you to do this day? Who can you reach out to? Where have you misplaced your love and hope?  Pray and ask God for guidance in living out this calling throughout your life in real and active ways.

4. Psalm 68

5. Respond

If you’ve fallen behind in the readings or having started year, 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.