Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Challenge Continues, Day 107: I Samuel 27-30; Psalm 89: 1-18; Acts 3

Right Action
It's not a new concept...there have been "culture wars" between people with conflicting world views, theologies, philosophies and political opinions pretty much as long as there have been people. Conflicts that pit one faction against another, or one perspective against another are part and parcel of being human. Why then do we wind up putting so much energy into things that only seem to serve the widening of divisions between us? In the end, I think it boils down to a succinct need we, as groups of human beings, have to be distinct from other groups, to be protected from dissent when people with conflicting ways and opinions intrude upon our lives and the practices we enjoy while living life from our previously formed perspectives.

Today we are reading again about the tension between competing perspectives on life (and as always in the case of scripture, on life in relationship with God). Saul is getting to the end of his rope. His conflicts with God, himself and the Philistines are overwhelming him and he is undone along with his whole household. David's time amongst the Philistines is coming to a close as well. His deceit, living under Achish in exile while at the same time raiding the people who protect him, is no longer tenable. The morass they are wading through, brought on by Saul's dis-ease of mind and soul, is coming to resolution. The hardest thing each man faces is how to choose the right action in the face of the challenges that their unsustainable choices have created for them and the people who follow them.

Saul falls on his own sword
For David, right action means withdrawal from Achish's presence. He cannot sustain his deceit of the king if he is forced to support an attack on the people of Israel. Thankfully, Achish's war captains perceive that and force the king to withdraw endorsement of David as his personal guard. Providence confirms that as right action, in that upon returning to their town David and his men find it sacked and burned by a raiding band of Amalekites. In pursuing and overcoming them, David demonstrates repeatedly the way to choosing right actions that have been defining him throughout this narrative as someone who will make a righteous king (as opposed to Saul's nefarious disintegration and loss of ability to focus on right action in order to preserve God's favor).

Peter heals a man crippled from birth
The close of I Samuel is an object lesson in what it takes to seek right action in the light of God's love writ on an epic scale. Our reading from Acts takes it to a slightly more intimate level...the drama ensues with an encounter between Peter and John, a lame beggar and the factions in Jerusalem responsible for inciting Jesus' crucifixion. On their way to the temple to pray, the two apostles are confronted with the vision of a man who is so twisted and lame that he needs people to carry him to the spot where he begs coins from people. Calling on the name of Jesus, Peter heals the beggar and astounds the crowd.

He uses that opportunity to call the people to right action: believe in the reality that Jesus-whom they killed-is the author of life. Choose to repent and amend life in order to be healed and forgiven. Make a commitment to continue to live an amended life. See that what you were so certain of just a moment ago is a delusion that is passing away.

Powerful words from a simple fisherman from a small village in a remote region of a backwater province.

And yet, that call to right action is still provocative enough to rouse our hearts and minds to respond today.

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