Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Challenge Continues, Day 102: I Samuel 16-18; Psalm 85; John 20

Ascendancy
Change is in the air. Old kingdoms are falling and new ones are coming into their own. In I Samuel, Saul's long reign over Israel continues to come apart at the seams. In John, we encounter the empty tomb, and death's reign over creation is being torn to shreds as one after another the disciples-beginning with Mary Magdalene-begin to encounter the risen Lord.

In each of these accounts, we are witnessing the ascendancy of a new kingdom. One will be of this world and with it we'll continue to see humanity do its worst, and its best in the service of God. The other will be in this world, but not of it. With the ascendancy of that kingdom, the work and witness of the Church begins.

My heart today is suspended in a prayerful tension. We are seeing Saul's reign over Israel fall apart, even as David's star ascends in the eyes of the people and before God. Saul comes undone mentally and emotionally, while David winds up overcoming every obstacle and challenge. It's like watching a train wreck in slow motion. You start to anticipate each step in the sequence of events, hoping for another outcome; and yet remain powerless to stop the horror. I keep wanting to shout, "Wait! Don't!"each time Saul connives to set David up, each time he attempts to hurt him or kill him when in one of his rages. It really is like watching a slow-motion train wreck.


The other pole of that tension is vested in the joy of the resurrection. John 20 reverses the horrors of the previous account of Jesus' crucifixion, undoing the sorrow and grief of the disciples while at the same time showing us a resurrected King of Kings who is Jesus--and yet so much more as well. Mary doesn't quite recognize him when she meets him in the garden at the mouth of the tomb, presuming him to be the gardener. Thomas holds back from believing, even when the others relate their encounter with the risen Lord.

Seeing is believing for him; and then he sees and believes. Even we, in our age, are blessed in this chapter: Jesus tells Thomas and the others that those who have not seen and yet believe are blessed as well. This ascendancy is of life itself, and death's hold on us is overthrown.

It is a harsh tension, and a sobering reminder: only God can accomplish this incredible blessing of new life in resurrection. When we attempt to overwrite that reality with our own version, the result is pain, loss and injustice. Where do we go from here? We keep our eyes open, and learn from Saul and David. We keep our hearts open, and step up to the call to actually live out God's call through Christ to proclaim justice, peace and life to a world that knows only too well the other side of injustice, conflict and death. Christ is raised from the dead...and death no longer has dominion over us. If only Saul could have heard that good news....but I know that isn't how it works. Still, I yearn to see his story have another ending....

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