Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Challenge Continues, Day 94: Judges 19-21; Psalm 78:40-72; John 13

A tangled, horrible mess...
When I was a kid, I learned calculus from my father. That was a good thing and a not-so-good thing: it was good because my father being a brilliant man, he taught me how to "solve for x" in my head; it was bad because once I could do that, my own nature saw no reason to write down the proof for the equation. As far as my math teacher was concerned, I was missing the point. Yes, the answer was right; but no, unless I could track how I go there, then I had not done the exercise. I get that now, but when I was younger (and frankly, still from time to time) I assume knowing the answer does not mean I have to go step by step through the proofing of it.

That is all well and good when we are talking about a math problem. Math problems happen up in our head and are solved, or resolved, with pen and paper. The problems we are dealing with in Judges (and now with the beginning of John's Passion account as well) are not going to resolved in an academic setting. It is going to take a lot of blood, sweat, tears, vengeance and renewal of righteousness on the part of the the people of Israel to resolve the tangled, horrible mess of implications stemming from the statement at the close of the Book of Judges: "In those days there was no king in Israel; each person did what they thought to be right." (21:25)

That is such a simple statement, and yet look at how we got there, particularly through this day's readings. A man's wife dishonors him and flees to her father's home. What ensues is a tragedy of epic proportion: manipulation of hospitality rules by his father-in-law; abuse of people to the magnitude of the Genesis story of Sodom and Gomorrah with the gang-rape and murder of that wife while he travels through what should be a safe haven among fellow Israelites (including the man's willingness to through his wife to the "mercy" of others). Top it off with civil war, senseless loss on both sides and finally a very messy and horrific rebalancing of the fortunes of the tribe of Benjamin that involves further murder, kidnapping and loss. All of that, stacked up on the exploits of the other Judges and the chronicle of the apostasy of Israel during periods of interregnum and where does it get us? Back to square one...Israel struggles to be faithful to God; God continues to call for correction...and the pendulum of Israel's response swings back to fidelity only when the situation of correction becomes so intolerant that there is no other possible option to explore.

The Gospel is equally challenging. At the very moment when it should all be coming together for Jesus and the community of disciples gathered around him, it is all falling apart. On the very night when we (all those who have answered the call to follow Jesus) receive the commandment to love one another...when we receive the gift of the Eucharist...it is at that very moment when betrayal is the name of the game. Judas leaves the fellowship in order to arrange for Jesus' arrest. Peter is informed that though it is nice for him to offer to die for/with Jesus, the reality is that he will betray Jesus three times before the cock crows.

In the end? It will all work out. We know that...solving for "x" means bearing witness to the eventual restoration of Israel in Hebrew scriptures and the celebration of the resurrection of the Christ in the Gospels. The challenge to us is bearing faithful witness to the proofing of that equation, and the horrors/sadnesses/loss, not to mention the shock and trauma that people endure on our way to that resolution.

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