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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Scripture Reading: 1 John 3:4–6
I have done what is just and right;
     do not leave me to my oppressors.
Guarantee your servant’s well-being;
     do not let the godless oppress me.
My eyes fail from watching for your salvation,
     and for the fulfillment of your righteous promise.
Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love,
     and teach me your statutes.
I am your servant; give me understanding,
     so that I may know your decrees.
It is time for the Lord to act,
     for your law has been broken.
Truly I love your commandments
     more than gold, more than fine gold.
Truly I direct my steps by all your precepts;
     I hate every false way.

Your decrees are wonderful;
     therefore my soul keeps them.
The unfolding of your words gives light;
     it imparts understanding to the simple.
With open mouth I pant,
     because I long for your commandments.
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
     as is your custom toward those who love your name.
Keep my steps steady according to your promise,
     and never let iniquity have dominion over me.
Redeem me from human oppression,
     that I may keep your precepts.
Make your face shine upon your servant,
     and teach me your statutes.
My eyes shed streams of tears
     because your law is not kept.
You are righteous, O Lord,
     and your judgments are right.
You have appointed your decrees in righteousness
     and in all faithfulness.
My zeal consumes me
     because my foes forget your words.
Your promise is well tried,
     and your servant loves it.
I am small and despised,
     yet I do not forget your precepts.
Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness,
     and your law is the truth.
Trouble and anguish have come upon me,
     but your commandments are my delight.
Your decrees are righteous forever;
     give me understanding that I may live. (NRSV)

Kids are wonderful . . . and horrible. Wonderful in the way they trust, and horrible in their sheer, utter childishness. Wonderful in the way they can be generous to one another, and horrible in . . . well, don’t forget that Lord of the Flies was written about kids.

The contrast between childlike and childish is all through this passage. There’s bargaining and self-congratulation and demanding:

“I’ve done what is just and right. Don’t just hand me over
     to my oppressors.”
“It is time for the Lord to do something! Your instruction
     has been broken.”
“That’s why I walk straight by every single one of your precepts.
     That’s why I hate every false path.”

Didn’t we all know a kid like this in elementary school? “I always do everything you tell me, Teacher. And I get so mad when other people don’t. They’re bad, because they’re not following the rules. I follow the rules, so you have to be on my side.” Didn’t you just loathe that kid? And if by chance you were that kid, didn’t you know how much you were loathed? You probably did.

“I’m insignificant and unpopular, but I don’t forget your precepts.”

One look at the world and you know we’re not so far removed from the playground. But there is also a childlike trust in this passage, a reliance on God to help us make sense out of the world:

“I’m your servant! Help me understand so I can know your laws.”
“Your laws are righteous forever. Help me understand so I can live!”

And that’s the real heart of it: “help me.” Help me to understand—not because I’m better than others, or because I deserve it more than others. Help me because you are God and I need you.

Lord, help me to remember that grace is not the prize in a contest, not a reward for good conduct. Remind me that grace is freely given, because you are God and you know I need it. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Fine Arts Coordinator

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