Saturday: Micah 7:1-7; Psalms 32; Revelation 10:1-11; Luke 11:1-13
The prophet falls into deep lament; there are no righteous among the people. As the hungry search for food in vineyards after they have been harvested, the prophet looks for someone to trust. The faithful have disappeared from the land. Everyone lies in wait to ambush or trap a neighbor. Their hands are skilled at evil. Officials and judges ask for bribes, and dictate justice to fit their own desires. Even the best is like a thorn. Put no trust in a friend, not even a loved one—not even your spouse! All will betray and rise up against you. Your enemies are members of your own household. But for Micah, he will look to the Lord, and wait for the God of his salvation, confident that God will hear his lament.
The psalmist gives thanks for the gift of forgiveness. “Happy are those whose sin is covered.” He acknowledges that while he kept silence about his sin, he wasted away, for the Lord’s hand was upon him and his strength was dried up as the heat of summer dries all things. But when he acknowledged his sin, when he no longer hid it but confessed it, the Lord forgave him his guilt. He then instructs all who are faithful to offer such prayers of confession, promising that in a time of distress and the rush of many waters, they will not reach them. Again, addressing the Lord, he confesses that God is his hiding place, who preserves him from trouble and surrounds him with glad cries of deliverance. The psalm then turns to addressing others, instructing them in the way they should go: “Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near.” It concludes with one final double affirmation: “Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord. Therefore: be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.”
There is an interlude between the sixth and the seventh trumpet, as an angel descends from heaven wrapped in a cloud with a little scroll open and in hand. He places one foot on the sea and the other on land, demonstrating his sovereignty over the earth, and when he opens his mouth to speak, it is like the roar of a great lion. In response to his shout the seven thunders sound. Whatever it is John hears in the moment, he is told not to write it down. Then the angel raises his right hand to heaven, in oath, and swears by God’s name that there will be no more delay. With the blowing of the seventh trumpet, the mysteries of God will be fulfilled as it had been announced through the prophets. John is then instructed to go to the angel and take the open scroll from his hand. As he does, the angel tells him to eat it. (See Ezekiel 2:8-3:3) Though it will be sweet in his mouth, it will be bitter in his stomach, and indeed, it was. He is then told that he must prophesy again as a warning to peoples, nations, languages and kings—to the whole world.
Luke shifts the scene and subject to prayer. Jesus is praying “in a certain place,” and after he is finished, one of his disciples (notice the anonymity—the question is being asked for all of Jesus’ disciples, not just one of the twelve), “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” Jesus responds with the Luken version of the Lord’s Prayer: “Father;” it is Jesus’ favorite name for God. Just verses before (21-22), Jesus said that all things had been handed over to him by “my Father,” –the only one who really knows who Jesus is. Similarly, no one knows who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. And so, this lesson on prayer is far less about petitions for this and that, and more about how to develop an appropriate relationship with the Father. Prayer is how we do that. “Hallowed be your name;” the word means to make holy, to hold as sacred and consecrated to holy purpose, the name the commandments instruct us not to use in vain. Your kingdom come;” a please for God’s reign to be present in and to everyone. “Give us each day the bread that we need for that day—and that day alone.” If God can do that for us, day by day, we will have no want. “Forgive us our sins—our transgressions against God and God’s ways—as opposed to “debts which we owe to one another, “for” we forgive everyone indebted to us.” Luke has made it clear that the expectation in the communities of Jesus is that forgiveness of sins is God’s work, and our requests for God’s forgiveness of our transgressions against him emerge out of our commitments to forgive others indebted to us. This is not a quid pro quo, arrangement for us. Rather we forgive, expecting nothing in return (Luke 6:35), because of whose we are and what we know about his forgiveness of us. “And do not bring us to the time of trial.” Following Jesus brings test enough in this life; this is a plea to be excused from the ultimate test, such as Jesus himself will face in the garden. These brief instructions are followed by direction to be persistent in our prayer, as the needful neighbor is persistent with the friend who will not respond to his reasonable request, but finally gives in less he himself risk dishonor. If that neighbor knows how to finally respond, then how much more does God know how to meet our needs? Therefore, “Ask, and it will be given you, search and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” Who, if their child asks for a fish will give her a snake or an a scorpion if she asks for an egg? If we, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to our children, then how much more will our heavenly Father give, not only what we ask of Him, but also, much more—the Holy Spirit.
Author: The Rev. Dr. Fred R. Anderson
Created: June 21, 2012
The Rev. Dr. Fred R. Anderson, Pastor of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, offers thoughts on today’s lectionary readings.