Just Desserts?

Day 19

Genesis 39:1-41:16; Matthew 12:46-13:23; Psalm 17:1-15; Proverbs 3:33-35

Just Desserts

Sometimes, I hear someone sigh and say, “Ah well… no good deed goes unpunished!” The saying is sardonic, but I sympathize with the sentiment. Life doesn’t seem to turn out the way we think it should. There’s just no justice in the world!

We see the saying demonstrated in the misadventures of Joseph. Contrast today’s chapters of Genesis with the stories we’ve been reading. Cowardly Abraham betrayed his wife, but was rewarded with treasure (in Genesis 12 and 20). Wily Jacob, after deceiving his father and tricking his brother, was rewarded with an elder’s birthright (in Genesis 25).

But here, in Genesis 39 and 40, the Bible’s first virtuous character is rewarded with imprisonment and betrayal! What kind of karma is this? If we will be Bible students, we will be forced to forego simplistic, moralistic judgments. The Scriptures will not conform to those kinds of judgments. The grace of God will not be confined to our tidy compartments. The prophet Isaiah expressed that idea in these words: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord” (55:8 NIV).

We’ll let the story play out, and trust in God to make it right, in the way that seems right to Him.

It’s also true for the lives we lead. We let the story play out, and trust God to make it right

The Rev. Kevin Holsapple

Do Unto Others

Day 18

Genesis 37:1‐38:30; Matthew 12:22‐45; Psalm 16:1‐11; Proverbs 3:27‐32

Do Unto Others

Last year our next-door neighbor borrowed the hand tool my husband uses to trim the tree limbs around our house. As far as I know, it is still in our neighbor’s garage and probably will be until we need to cut away stray branches in the Spring.

Have you ever had a neighbor who borrowed a tool and just never returned it? While it is not a big deal on some level, this is just what Solomon was speaking of when he wrote this bit of wisdom down. It does matter how we treat one another and when we borrow something and don’t return it, the behavior is inconsiderate and unfair. When that is done to us, our trust is broken, and we are much less willing to help out on future occasions.

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to do it.
Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again,
tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.
Do not plan evil against your neighbor,
who dwells trustingly beside you. –Proverbs 3:27-29

God has given us such abundance in this country. How do we reach out to those around us who have so much less than we? Are we stingy with that neighbor? Or if it is within our means, do we give graciously?

Jesus teaches us that we are to treat one another like we want to be treated. That means when we borrow something we have received from others, we should cheerfully and quickly return the item in even better shape than when it was handed over to us.

And when our Lord blesses us with abundance, we should share.

Phyllis Bartle+
St. Jude’s Episcopal Church
Orange City, FL

Desecrating The Sabbath

Day 17

Genesis 35:1-36:43; Matthew 12:1-21; Psalm 15:1-5; Proverbs 3:21-26

Desecrating the Sabbath

It is a constant temptation for those of us who are religious to maintain balance between religion and relationship. We can fall into the seductive trap of the Pharisees that says, “If I do my religion right then I am surely going to be right with God forever.” Today’s Psalm asks: “LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?” That’s what we want – to dwell in God’s sanctuary, to live on His holy hill forever. That’s why we are seriously religious. Verse two provides us the answer: ”Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart…”

What does it mean to be “blameless” and do what is “right”? Trying to be religiously perfect has always been a slippery slope because righteousness ends up being more about our heart than keeping rules. After meeting the resurrected Christ, a repentant Paul, having experienced the circumcision of his heart, wrote that “none are righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). Paul began to understand the difference between “keeping the Sabbath” as a religious obligation and being in right relationship with the Lord of the Sabbath and the people for whom He died.

In Matthew, Jesus reveals that “keeping the Sabbath” is more about relationship than observance. Jesus challenged the burden of the traditional legalism associated with the Sabbath by doing right for a human whom God loved. May we find our balance in being religious and being in right relationship with God, with others, and ourselves.

Richard Bordin
Holy Cross Episcopal Church
Winter Haven, FL