Favor or failure?

1494384383919Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 98; 146, Jeremiah 30:10-17, Colossians 1:15-23, Luke 6:12-26

Jeremiah is a complex book containing poems, history, and prophecies from multiple authors. It does not tell a linear story, but describes the experience of a people whose faith in a protective God is strained to breaking when enemies defeat and enslave them. Jeremiah alternately claims Judah’s people have been wicked and lost God’s favor, and also that God loves and will save them. The result is less a clear picture of their relationship with God than a reflection of their confusion and search for answers.

Today’s psalms also show us a God who both punishes and rescues. For the Israelites, everything from harvests to the outcome of battle was a sign of God’s favor or displeasure. This view seems simplistic, but complicates and even makes contradictory our relationship with God. Unless one is a prophet, such a belief structure makes it hard to determine whether we are in the middle of punishment or deliverance.

Yet many self-styled prophets are quick to blame personal and public disasters on God’s disfavor. From  hurricanes to terror attacks to uncontrollable children, one doesn’t have to wait long for someone who blames specific “sinners.” And while the world is indeed broken in ways that need to be named and addressed, those who speak with eagerness and certitude about the people God is punishing never seem to consider their own sins might bring about such action. On the contrary, they often point to their own prosperity as a sign of favor.

Jesus’ words in Luke turn that notion upside down. He calls the blessed poor, hungry, and mournful. The mirthful rich are the ones in trouble. So what are we to do? If the state of our pocketbooks and bellies doesn’t tell us whether we are living according to God’s plan, what does? Jesus calls us to be loving people no matter our external state. He assures us God always loves us, and is with us through both sorrows and joys. A godly life is constant in its humility and charity regardless of fortune. Living such a life renders the question of God’s favor moot.

Comfort: God’s love for us is constant.

Challenge: Think of the times you’ve asked “Why me?”

Prayer: God of Grace and Mercy, thank you for your constancy. Amen.

Discussion: How do you feel when someone blames misfortune on its victim?

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