“Topsy-Turvy” A Devotion on Ecclesiastes 9:11

“I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful; but time and chance happen to them all.” —Ecclesiastes 9:11

The received truth in our society is that the strong must prevail over the weak, and the rich must prevail over the poor. Only a fool would deny it. There is an old joke about our text: “the race may not go to the swift, nor the battle to the strong” but that is definitely the way to bet!

And yet, and yet! When you read the strange story of the Bible there seems to be another kind of truth. “The first shall be last and the last first.” “The lion shall dwell with the lamb.” The shepherd boy, David, slays the giant, Goliath.

And in her canticle Mary says (or perhaps sings):

God has shown the strength of his arm,
God has scattered the proud in their conceit,
God has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the humble.
God has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.

Can we imagine such a world?  A world without income inequality? Without racial bias? A world where might doesn’t make right? Where the meek really inherit the earth? Where the richest can’t buy elections? Where the powerful don’t call all the shots?

It astonishes me that the Bible is so often employed to defend the status quo. Because if you pay attention to its topsy-turvy story, it is more often than not a challenge to prevailing norms and received assumptions about the way things are and must be.

It is worth reminding ourselves from time to time that the one we follow and worship, whose realm and reign we pray for, came in humility and died on a cross in a state execution.

Prayer: Don’t let us fall for it, God. The world we see doesn’t have to be like this.

(This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotion for June 24, 2018. To see the original go here. To subscribe to the UCC Daily Devotional and receive it every day by e-mail go here. Photo: Upside down trees at Mass MOCA.)

“Your Sons and Your Daughters Shall Prophesy” A Devotion on Acts 2:16-17

“No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.‘’—Acts 2:16-17 Continue reading

“We’re Still Learning.” A Devotion on Mark 10:42-45

“So Jesus called the disciples and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”—Mark 10:42-45 Continue reading

“We Shall Walk Through the Valley in Peace” A Devotion on Psalm 23:4

Valley“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” —Psalm 23:4 KJV

The “shadow of death” is a colloquial saying in Hebrew meaning “mortal peril.” For many people in our world who are in mortal peril “the shadow of death” is literal. We might think of the people of Syria, or refugees in leaky boats, or young men in gangs. Or we might think of people we know who are dying. They live in “the shadow of death.” Continue reading

“Living Water and Leaky Containers” A Devotion on Jeremiah 2:13

“My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.”—Jeremiah 2:13

When you live in the desert you know the difference between green and brown, between wet and dry. In the parched lands from which we get our Bible water was not only a precious resource, but also an important metaphor for life itself. Continue reading

“Down to Earth” A Sermon on John 13:1-17

I started my ministry 43 years ago in two small congregations in two adjacent tiny towns in Maine about 9 miles apart. When I lived in Maine just about the nicest compliment you could give someone was to say they were “down to earth.” It meant that they weren’t puffed up about their own importance. They were reliable, sensible, responsible, unpretentious and humble. Continue reading

“Did God Say?” A Devotion on Genesis 3:1

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” —Genesis 3:1 Continue reading