|Ahab and Jehoshaphat hear Micaiah's words, and their fates are confirmed|
Every sort of life has transitions that can cause us to pause for a moment: to look back on the last chapter, that we might learn from what we have experienced and pull from those learnings a sense of meaning; and to look forward in order to wonder what might yet happen to us in the years to come as lives, communities, careers and callings are transformed. The reading from I Kings, the close of the first book of the histories of Judah and Israel, also closes the reigns of Ahab and Jehoshaphat...and the tumult of their reigns over the divided legacy of David. Psalm 105 reminds us of God's work in delivering Israel from slavery in Egypt, and God's steadfast witness that though we may suffer, we will not perish as a people from the face of the Earth. There will always be deliverance, though not all generations will see it clearly in their own day. Finally, we see Paul's great mission to Asia and Greece coming to a close as well. His last visit with the members of the Church in Ephesus as he travels through Miletus lets us know that even his great work, and his life, must eventually end.
|Paul in Miletus|
Marking endings and beginnings are profoundly challenging, in that we want to make the best of them and yet at the same time we would prefer to rest in the "in-between" and for the most part avoid the difficulties we too often encounter in the hellos and goodbyes that changes bring to us. Without these moments, though, we would not know growth. We would not know renewal. We would not know what it means to deepen in wisdom and strength, even when pain and loss seem to be overwhelming us. Even as muscles need to be broken down and torn in order to grow in strength and endurance, so also must we weather change and transformation to grow stronger, in heart, mind and soul as well as in the flesh.
That, I believe, is the lesson of today: that through the sagas of the misadventures of the Kings of Israel and Judah, we get to learn what it means to live in harmony with God as well as what it means to live "across the grain" of God's will for us; in the Psalm we are challenged to remember that even in the darkest moments of life or God is with us as a redeemer and deliverer; and in Paul's witness and haste to return to Jerusalem in order to embrace a difficult and painful future he is able to persist in faith and see even in his trials an opportunity to bear witness to the love of Christ.
Make a prayerful effort today, to be mindful of the endings and beginnings that you and yours are facing today. Seek awareness of God's hand upon you and take some time to prayerfully discern what is being offered to you that will allow a sense of meaning and an awareness of purpose in what is happening to and around you, that the glory of God can be revealed as you make your way from ending, to beginning and back again.