Wednesday, March 17, 2004

I’m taking a basic lay speaking class right now. For those of you who don’t know, it is very basic training for laity in the United Methodist Church. One of our assignments is to write a 7 minute sermon using one of the lectionary readings from the Sunday closest to our birthday. As of now, I’ve only invested about 5 minutes in this assignment, so I’ve got a lot of work left to do. The Psalm for February 29th, 2004 is 91:1-2, 9-16.

Psalm 91
1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the LORD , "He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust."

9 If you make the Most High your dwelling-
even the LORD , who is my refuge-
10 then no harm will befall you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread upon the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 "Because he loves me," says the LORD , "I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life will I satisfy him
and show him my salvation."

I’m feeling sad this morning. In case you missed it, four Baptist missionaries were murdered yesterday or the day before in northern Iraq [story]. They were in Iraq working on a water purification project when they were gunned down in their car. Certainly many innocent Iraqis have also been killed during the war and the terror attacks after the formal end of fighting. Incidents like this overwhelm me – is there an end to the violence? A father in California murdered 9 of his children. Two 12 year-old boys murdered a 13 year-old classmate in Washington. Terrorists detonated a car bomb today in Baghdad that destroyed a hotel and killed at least 27 people.

It is times like this when you wonder, frankly, what in the hell biblical literalists are smoking. A literal reading of the passage seems pretty clear – if you worship God (“make the Most High your dwelling”) “no harm will befall you.” Try telling that to the families of the missionaries killed. I suppose I’m not smart enough to know what God is really saying.

I have absolutely no idea what to make of Psalm 91. I just don’t know. It’s probably a good thing I’m not a minister. Here’s what I would say:

“I don’t know why bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. I don’t know why missionaries get killed doing God’s work. I don’t know why children suffer and die. I don’t why God seems to promise protection from all of the evil and sickness in the world and then not protect us. I don’t know why so many people claim to know. All I really know is that I’m better off with God in my life. The world is still a scary place and I’m afraid for my family and friends. I just hope when it’s my time that I’ve done as much for our world in the name of God as those Baptists in Iraq.”



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