February 25, 2019
God Alone Is Our Source and Guide
February 25, 2019
Reading the daily Scriptures is a little like looking at a kaleidoscope. The pieces stay the same, but each time you look at it, a new pattern emerges and something fresh and beautiful appears.
We’ve used daily lectionary readings in our devotions at home for over 20 years. This practice sometimes leads us to read Scripture we might not choose on our own, but often we discover something new, reminding us that the Bible speaks God’s truth even through stories of flawed people in unfamiliar circumstances. Today’s readings challenge us to approach Scripture with an openness that leads to new perspectives.
Why would God choose Jacob, “the trickster”? His tactics for stealing his brother’s birthright by fooling his old father are despicable. And yet God sticks with him. In this story he is still devious in spite of some hard life-lessons learned in the employment of his also tricky Uncle Laban. He’s finally returning home and afraid to meet his brother again, so he moves the women and children up to the front of the caravan where Esau encounters them first. Jacob then presents his brother with a generous gift of flocks and herds, but still he evades going home with Esau (and we can’t be sure the gift gets delivered either). One more time he takes the fork in the road and makes a new home. Yet God has wrestled with him, changed his name, and made him the father of God’s great nation Israel.
Paul’s opinion that women must cover their heads in church seems odd now, but my mother’s generation followed this custom “religiously.” They kept Miss Birdie’s Millinery Shop thriving in our small town. Even in the early ‘60s my college roommate and I would argue about hats for church-going – she liked to borrow mine, and I fussed about her choice. We spent way too much time on the fashion aspects of a custom that no longer had its original meaning.
Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 11 is hard to follow, but happily he doesn’t disapprove of the women’s praying and prophesying in church. The Corinthian women were accepted in worship leadership roles beyond what was usual until very recent times; they took courage from Paul’s own teaching: In Christ there is “no longer male or female” (Gal 3:28).
Today’s verses suggest an approach to Bible study that involves 1) Focusing on the main idea the writer stresses—not head coverings, but Paul’s affirmation that God alone is our source and our guide. “Everything comes from God” (v. 12). 2) Seeing Paul’s instructions through the prism of other writings that show his respect for women’s roles and their “oneness” in Christ. 3) Understanding the context: Paul’s concern about order in a day when custom required head coverings in public. Any disorder or flaunting of custom might bring unwanted attention, including persecution, on the church. Customs do change over time. Paul himself changed his mind on some subjects, including the key issue of whether Christians needed to be circumcised.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FIELD
- When God calls us, we are often tempted to say, “But God, I’m not good enough to be a _____” (worship leader, teacher, mentor, council member, or countless other jobs that need doing). Have you ever wrestled with God over your calling?
- What is essential in showing our love for God; is it covering our heads or other regulations, such as avoiding certain foods? Read Micah 6:8. What does God require?
FAMILY FIELD TALK
- For the children: What do you want to be when you grow up?
- For everyone: What do you think God wants you to be?
- Who can help you make up your mind about your calling and see it more clearly?
God of wisdom, you have given us minds for discernment and guidance for our journey; keep us from losing our way. Lead us on your path to peace that we may live in love with our neighbors and bring your justice and kindness to all we meet. In the name of Jesus our brother. Amen.
Please also join us in prayer for the United Methodist Church General Conference in St. Louis this week (February 23-26). The Memorial Chapel will be open for prayer on Monday and Tuesday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.