Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 130; 148, Esther 1:1-4, 10-19, Acts 17:1-15, John 12:36b-43
The Book of Esther is not just a captivating story, it is an unusual part of the Bible: it never mentions God. This glaring omission made it a controversial addition to both Jewish and Christian canon. A work about Jewish/Persian relations from a clearly Jewish perspective, Esther shows little regard for Jewish law. But because it is included, we can assume those who selected it believed it had something to say about our relationship with God.
Are we prepared to see God in people, things and events which are not explicitly Christian, or religious in any way? We should be. God is present in all the world at all times. If we limit ourselves to people and experiences with a big, bold Christian sticker on them, we’ll spend a lot of time rejecting that presence. Our own Christian faith is not irrelevant or unimportant; indeed, our faith tradition teaches us to see God in context. We trust that God moves in people and in ways we may never fully understand. When someone is blessed with the gift of music, generosity, or poetry, we know that gift comes from God, even when the possessor of the gift doesn’t believe so. If we ignore or denigrate them because they don’t fall comfortably into a Christian marketing plan, we snub gifts God has given the world.
Our relationship with the secular world is complicated. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus himself offers us messages which may seem to conflict. In verse 9:50 he tells the disciples “whoever is not against you is for you,” while in 11:23 he says “whoever is not with me is against me.” The earlier verse is an instruction to the disciples about others doing good works, while the latter concludes a parable about Jesus’ role in salvation. If we take a long view of the Gospels, don’t we see a Christ whose actions favor acceptance and love of those rejected by self-righteous religious figures? The Pharisees accused Jesus of being too worldly because he didn’t seek reasons to reject people, but to love them. Can we do less?
Comfort: God loves us whether or not we meet others’ expectations.
Challenge: As you are exposed to popular entertainment and culture, look for where God’s presence is realized, and where it is rejected.
Prayer: Compassionate God, I will seek you in everyone and everything. Amen.
Discussion: In what secular art (music, film, paintings, etc) have you seen signs of God?
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