Thursday, October 06, 2016

Reflections on the 21st Sunday After Pentecost (Proper 23, Year C): The Word of God is not Chained

What's in a chain?

Nowadays, we need hope...the kind of hope that has a weight, a heft to it. Hope too often is like a light breeze that carries a scent of rain to our sense during drought, or a freshet of air across a cheek that promises relief from heat or cold. I want a sense of mass in my hope, an awareness that hope is with me. It can be like the ground beneath my feet, holding me up against the inexorable pull of gravity. It can be like a wave at the shore, pushing and pulling at me with the promise of an ocean of energy behind it. It can be fluid or solid, but I need to feel it, coming at me and impacting me. I want that physical impact, and to feel its weight.

When Paul speaks in his letter to Timothy that the chains he wears in his captivity are enough to bind him physically, he is also quick to declare that God's Word is not chained. The weight of hope he feels is that release that comes from knowing that while Rome might bind his body, his being is God's. No emperor, or the emperor's agent, can claim that prize. The weight of glory, and salvation, that he bears for the sake of God's elect is the only burden he carries. That is the weight and burden of hope I pine for as these days unfold.

Jeremiah the prophet also challenges people who labor in earthly chains to claim the greater weight of hope that comes from a realization that God's binding love is what really claims them. No agent of Babylon, from king to satrap to military force can ultimately own them...for even in exile they are still God's beloved people. "Buy houses, plant gardens!" "Marry and have children!" "Marry your children off and build up households and families...even in exile!" Moreover...."Pray for the well-being of Babylon!" Why? Because that is the land that you live in, and the people among whom you will live for this time. Their well-being is assurance of your well-being. God is STILL with you and is not bound to "THEN" and "THERE;" to the past or to a land that is not where you live. God is NOW and HERE. Feel the weight of that love impacting you...and do not worry about, fear or even heed that other chains of worry bind you. Those chains have no enduring weight....for endurance comes from God's love for you. That is what hope, with true heft and mass, feels like.

Be the one who begs for the burden of hope. Be the one whose faith is bound tightly and strongly to your being with the assurance that God's love and presence are in the here and now for us. Be the one who wears the chains of hope....who forges ties that bind and embraces the ones that link us forever to a living God in Christ Jesus.

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