“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.)

“Small Beginnings” A Baptismal Sermon on Mark 4:30-34

Jesus also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it?  It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade. With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.” —Mark 4:30-34 Continue reading

“Good Trouble” A Devotion on Mark 2: 27-28

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.’”—Mark 2: 27, 28

Jesus was often in trouble with the authorities because he regularly, and quite intentionally, broke the religious rules of the day. Continue reading

“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

“SHARE!” A Devotion on Acts 2:44-45

“All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.”—Acts 2:44-45

My son and daughter were born 20 months apart and so played together as children. Before I was a parent I imagined that the solution to sibling competition over toys was to give them each the same one. So, for example, if you gave one of them a colorful ball, you would also give the other one an identical ball. As reasonable as this sounds it didn’t work. Apparently there is something highly acquisitive hardwired into the human condition. It turns out that both children wanted both balls. I’m tempted to reference a certain Christian doctrine here, but I’ll hold back. Continue reading