Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Bible Challenge, Day 18: Genesis 46-48; Psalm 16; Matthew 16


Trusting in God: A promise is a promise, and beware of yeast...well, SOME yeast....
One long saga of a family drama is coming to an end. Joseph has brought Israel down into Egypt, and God has assured Israel that the god of his fathers will be with him and his descendants. What goes down into Egypt will be returned again to the land that was intended for the children of Abraham, Isaac and now Jacob (Israel). The full census of sons, grandsons and daughters is noted, from all four women by which Israel had children. The promise God made to an old man and his wife continues to bear witness to the power God exercises to bring life and hope to people yearning for the same. If only the credits would roll, and a script play over them, "The End." It would be a great conclusion...but the story doesn't end, or else why would we still be here? God is still speaking, acting and working in, around and through us all. God's promise to make nations out of Abraham, that covenant of hope that assures us that God is with us through ALL time and active through ALL generations means that this story doesn't end here. It is just the end of a chapter, the conclusion of the movement of a symphony. The band plays on, and God is still-if you will-on the job.

And we as humans are still bringing drama into the mix. At the end of Israel's life, he calls Joseph to his bedside. Joseph brings his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. In blessing the two boys, Israel reverses their birth order. The eldest is blessed with his left hand, the younger with his right. Sound familiar? Jacob was the younger brother who supplanted his elder twin to take their father's blessing. And so, the drama will continue into another generation...and don't forget that Israel has allotted another portion of his inheritance to Joseph, giving more to him than will be granted to his other sons. More human drama...and yet, we still see God's steadfast promise to be with and shelter all of Israel working itself out with Pharaoh giving most of the land of Goshen as pasture land to Israel's flocks, and the people of God being preserved for God's purpose in ages to come.

A promise is a promise. The psalmist remembers this as well...God is with us: As near as a person would be, standing at our right hand. Our assurance is only found in God. If ANY abiding is going to happen in our lives, then it will happen IN GOD'S PRESENCE because God is ALWAYS present to us. Even if we doubt. Even if we fear. Even when hard times wear us down. Even when we are embroiled in conflict. Even when things are darkest before the dawn. Even when the sun shines. Even...always. Not because we do anything to earn it, but because that is what God has promised to accomplish in humanity through all ages, to be with us. Period.

When Jesus warns the disciples to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, they think he is talking about bread (and because they are hungry-they wonder when the next meal is going to happen). The rebuke Jesus offers is not just a request that they get their heads out of their guts; it is rather to expand and explain a slightly misconstrued metaphor. The "yeast of the Pharisees" as we witness in the Gospel is that action of humanity that puffs up and reworks the intent God has for humankind. God wants relationship more than conditioned obedience. God wants fidelity and love more than fear and "abjectifying" purity codes. The yeast Jesus is encouraging the disciples to make use of is found in committing faith and trust to God. Draw your life from that, sustain yourself on THAT yeast...and we see that in Peter's confession. The disciples respond to Jesus' questions about what has been said of him, by reporting the buzz of the crowd. When asked what the disciples think of him, Peter responds that Jesus is the Messiah of God. That is some powerful yeast...and Jesus names him, Peter, his rock...the base on which the Church will be built.
Yeast, proofing in preparation for making bread

We forget too often that our only true assurance is in God. Too often, we look to others things as yeast for our lives, when the one, true thing that brings life to what sustains us in the "yeast" of God's abiding love and the fulfillment of the promises of God in and through us that brings light to the world. So, go out into the world yeasty for God's sake...

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