The Lectionary selections for March 7, 2014 have two themes, threats and God’s help. Psalm 35 is a scary account of ways in which a man was subjected to bullying and hatred. Interspersed with his anguish are his recurrent pleas to God for relief.
Ezekiel cites a parable about adults having eaten sour grapes, thus setting their children’s teeth on edge. Its meaning is unclear, but it is obliquely threatening. Maybe that is why God admonished them to say it no more.
Christian Philippians lived in a hostile milieu, surrounded by people opposed to the church and to them. Paul tells the Philippians to stand firm, to rejoice in God, that God is near, and God will protect them; not to worry.
John quotes Jesus asking God the Father to protect his disciples, now that he (Jesus) is no longer in the world. This passage evokes the divinity of Jesus, and raises the expectation that God will protect the disciples and us.
The psalms and Ezekiel were written circa 2700 years ago; the letters of Paul and the Gospel of John over 2000 years ago. Yet the threats, anguish and imminence of evil are with us right now.
Now, as then, the remedy lies with faith in God. Not just any faith, but really strong faith. In Psalm 37 and Ezekiel I perceived the presence of the Lord, but wasn’t so sure that the Lord could do what was being asked. Paul and John seemed to be sure; they had faith that Jesus/God would protect the Philippians and the disciples.
The modern world is every bit as scary as the worlds of 600 BC and 100 AD. Despite the reassurance of Paul and John, I remain uneasy. But we have no choice. Faith is faith, not science. Have faith in God, because there is no other way!
— Dudley Rochester