Saturday, August 08, 2015

Admitting I am powerless- Lectionary Readings for August 9

This post is late because I've been finishing my "statement of problem" for my DMin program. It's not a full blown proposal, but it goes a long way toward matching me with the right faculty mentor for the project. Once I find out if what I turned in is remotely coherent, I'll share it here and invite feedback.

This week's lectionary readings are 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33; Psalm 130; Ephesians 4:25-5:2; and John 6:35, 41-51. They can be found at Vanderbilt's lectionary page.

This week's psalter begins with "out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord". In the 2 Samuel reading, David is crying out from the depths as he realizes that he is in the middle of a mess he can't fix, cover up, or ignore. His son, Absalom, has died in a rebellion against him, even though David told his soldiers to deal gently with him. Even though David's side has "won" the battle, he has lost.

David wishes he had died instead of his son, because that is the natural order of things. Losing a child is every parent's worst nightmare. The very thought of one of my children dying before me makes my stomach clench up, and in my experience as a pastor, it is the hardest situation to walk with somebody through, because there's nothing you can say to make it any better. There are a lot of things that people can and do say that make it worse ("this was God's plan", "God needed another angel in heaven"). For David, knowing that it is precisely all his wealth and power that caused this situation that cost him his son makes his grief that much greater.

Not everyone goes through the pain of losing a child, but we all have horrible moments in our lives when we would give anything to make the pain go away, and realizing that there is nothing we can do only makes it worse. Friends in recovery from substance abuse call it their "rock bottom" moment, when they can't get healthy on their own. Admitting you are helpless to solve the problem and have to call upon a higher power is the first step in AA and other twelve step recovery programs.

The psalmist does the same thing, ending with "it is (the Lord) who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities". When we've really hit rock bottom, when we can no longer hide behind our see how powerless we are the only way to get through it is to let God work.

In the gospel reading, Jesus tells us how our grief, our pain, our hunger can't be satisfied by anything we can do, but only by the "bread from heaven" who happens to be Jesus himself. Some of his hearers don't like it because they're quite comfortable with the illusion of their own agency. But at the end of the day, following Jesus isn't all that different from getting sober. We recognize that we are in the depths, that we can't pull ourselves out, and look to God to meet the need we have to finally admit we can't meet on our own.