Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 19; 150, Judges 16:15-31, 2 Corinthians 13:1-11, Mark 5:25-34
Today we reach the end of the story of Samson. He has been unlikable, dull-witted, egotistical, impulsive, deceptive, a fatally sore loser, and more than a bit of a hound. In the plus column: he was physically strong because from birth he was consecrated to God as a Nazirite. His role as the God-appointed judge of Israel was “to begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines.” He accomplished his goal in spectacularly bloody fashion and died without revealing a single redeeming character trait. Charitably, he is not a poster child for righteousness. And that is why we should thank him.
If we can put aside our feelings about the violence of the story (although it may not bother some of us), we can take away an important lesson: God works with what we have to give. We may not have slain anyone because we lost a bet, or burned down entire farms because of a bad breakup, but we have plenty of our own flaws and self-destructive tendencies. God knows this, and is willing to work with us anyway.
It’s easy to think of ourselves or someone else as too flawed to be instruments of God. After all, God knows about the faults the rest of the world sees, and also those we manage to hide from everyone else. Shame, modesty, or both tell us we aren’t good enough to be of any real use to God. Judgment tells us someone else isn’t. When we picture a “servant of the Lord” that picture doesn’t usually include co-dependence, bad credit, or a pornography habit—all of which are small potatoes compared to Samson’s indiscretions. God will choose who God will choose, and our opinion doesn’t carry a lot of weight—especially when God chooses us. Moses tried to beg off because of a speech impediment, and Paul spoke frequently of an unidentified “thorn in his flesh” that kept him humble despite his importance.
We should try to correct our flaws, but rather than letting them define us, let’s try to see how God might be working in us, and in others.
Comfort: No matter how cracked, we are valuable vessels to God.
Challenge: When you find yourself judging someone, think about the hidden strengths God may have given her or him.
Prayer: God of healing, work through me as you will. Amen.
Discussion: Some psychological theories say the flip side of every virtue is a vice. Have you ever found that to be true?
For thoughts on today’s text from Mark, also see Go In Peace.
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