By the Rev. Canon Dr. Titus Presler
Deuteronomy is the statute book of ancient Israel, comparable to the shelves of local and national laws in the office of your lawyer or solicitor. A difference with civil law today is that as a theocracy, a nation ruled by God, Israel believed its laws were generated by God. So its laws were enshrined in scripture, and they continue in our scripture.
In Deuteronomy we experience the mixture of divine inspiration and human agency characteristic of all our scriptures, a mixture we see also in God’s incarnation in Jesus. In our very different cultural situations today, some of Israel’s laws seem harsh, others patriarchal, some common-sensical, otherstouchingly compassionate, some just plain puzzling. Underlying a number of laws in today’s reading are such principles as respect for nature’s differences, support for family structure, protection of the weak, and mercy for the poor.
In Psalm 60 the community not only mourns a military defeat but also concludes that disaster signifies God’s rejection, a conclusion common among Muslims and Christians alike in Peshawar today. Eternal human questions arise: Does my relationship with God guarantee success? If not, what is the use of God?
Equating worldly success with God’s favor was the stance taken by those who mocked Jesus at the crucifixion he predicts in today’s reading from Luke. The truth was that, enfleshed in Jesus, Godlived through the human experience of weakness, rejection and pain, both physical and psychic. In the stories he tells and the work he does in today’s gospel, Jesus acts out that solidarity through lifting up a poor widow, commending a repentant tax collector, blessing little children, directing a rich man to help the poor, and healing a blind beggar. God’s centrality in existence is shown not in control but in loving companionship with us in suffering.
A skeptic recently asked me, “In such an infinitely large universe inhabited by such chaos, how can you believe that God is there, and in charge?” How would you respond?
Spend a few minutes putting yourself in the place of the persistent widow, the repentant tax collector, the rich ruler, or the blind beggar. What opens up inside you – about yourself, and about your relationship with God?
I want to partner with you, God, in your patient and sacrificial mission of love in this hurting world. So I ask you to broaden my vision, intensify my vulnerability, and deepen my compassion – so that I can work with you, and you can work with me, in the way of Jesus. Amen.
The Rev. Canon Dr. Titus Presler is Principal of Edwardes College, Peshawar, Pakistan.