Home > Biblical Studies, Jurgen Moltmann, Karl Barth, Theology > Lectionary Reflections 1/20/2006

Lectionary Reflections 1/20/2006

In today's lectionary readings that I did this morning two verses were matched that are quite interesting. 

Both Psalm 42 and Numbers 11 contain a significant series of complaints against God.  Psalm 42 contains those famous lines: "My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, "Where is your God".  Where Psalm 42 differs from other laments Psalms however is that the Psalmist tries to reassure himself, with lines such as "Why are you cast down, O my soul, any why are you disquieted within me?  Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God".  The author here is in essence saying to himself, "Look, you know better, you know you shouldn't feel this way – put your trust in God and all will turn out okay". 

Moses on the other hand in Numbers 11 offers no such self-reassurance.  He, after the people have been complaining about not having meat, offers this lament.  "If this is the way you're going to treat me, put me to death at once – if I have found favor in your sight – and do not let me see my misery".  Here Moses is saying, "Look, do me a favor and kill me now – I'll be better off if you".  What is sort of troubling about Moses' statement is that it bears a close parallel to Elijah's complaint when he is being pursued by Jezebel.  What does it say that the Lord's chosen often face affliction so hard in the service of God that they ask God to kill them now?The other reading this morning was from Romans 1, where Paul argues that "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he made.  So they are without excuse;"  I for one, given my Barthian leanings, am highly suspect of natural revelation.  This verse is often pointed out as one (along with Psalm 19) as making the case for a natural theology.  However, as Moltmann points out this verse is actually a strong argument against natural theology.  While in fact God's divine nature and eternal power can be seen through the things that God has made, humanity has consistently gotten it wrong and misunderstood.  I think, as Alister McGrath argues that the only place for a natural theology (if there is one) is within faith.  As one of my former youth group kids pointed out one time, for people who already have faith the use of nature as a devotional means is quite acceptable because you know by faith that God has created all things,  thus you can see God's power and nature through what God has made.
Finally, in what I find to be one of the "weirdest" passages of the Gospels, is Peter's response when asked if his teacher (Jesus) paid the temple tax (which Jesus did).  What does it say that Jesus paid taxes?  Well, first of all it gives us no excuse not to pay taxes (sadly :().  However, I want to argue that this is a case of Jesus being a faithful subversive. 

If there is one part of Jesus' mission that can be clear is was his intention to subvert the temple system.  On his final journey to Jerusalem, the event that likely sealed his fate was his cleansing of the temple.  So clearly Jesus wasn't a fan of the temple, yet he paid the temple tax.  Why?  Well, Jesus was Jewish and he was fulfilling his duty.  He was being faithful to an institution while actively trying to reform and transform it. 

In my own life I've found that the role of the faithful subversive fits me best.  Recently I was appointed to the board of directors at PTS.  I love PTS and will always remember fondly my time there and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone.  However, there are things about PTS that I think need to change.  My goal in going on the board is to remain faithful to an institution that has given me so much and to work for solutions to meet the changing face of the church for the good of PTS. 

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