Morning Prayer: May 10th

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Psalms 26, 28
Old Testament: Daniel 4:28-37
New Testament: 1 John 4:7-21

While I absolutely ❤ the passage from 1 John this morning….it is the Old Testament lesson that caught my eye….mainly because it is so off-kilter compared to the rest of the Biblical narrative.

Here we have Nebuchadnezzer…..the great king of Babylon….going insane and–through that experience–comes to know YHWH as the Lord of all Creation.

The event in and of itself is not unique. Throughout the Old Testament there are examples of kings, prophets, and court officials doing some rather eccentric things. People who temporarily lose their minds as a punishment for blasphemy or pride.

In the end, they are always restored to wholeness and peace of mind…..but the twist here is that Nebuchadnezzer is a Gentile.

In the natural flow of the Jewish tradition….this isn’t supposed to happen. The oppressor of God’s chosen one cannot possibly be given an experience of the divine, can he???

It would be absurd to think that mental illness is a punishment from God. He doesn’t work like that. The crux of the story lies in the fact that this foreigner, this stranger……even he is not outside the Grace of God.

The good news which shines through in this passage is that even the worst of us might be able to see God. Even those of us who feel so lost….who feel as though we have lost all semblance of “normal” and “healthy” might one day join our voices with the Babylonian king; in declaring God’s wonder and glory in our lives:

I blessed the Most High,
and praised and honored the one who lives forever.
For his sovereignty is an everlasting sovereignty,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation.

All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does what he wills with the host of heaven
and the inhabitants of the earth.
There is no one who can stay his hand
or say to him, “What are you doing?”

At that time my reason returned to me; and my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom. My counselors and my lords sought me out, I was re-established over my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven. (Dan 4:34b-37)

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Morning Prayer: April 15th

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Psalm: 22
Old Testament: Jeremiah 29:1, 4-13
New Testament: Romans 11:13-24

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the rich root* of the olive tree, do not vaunt yourselves over the branches. If you do vaunt yourselves, remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you (Romans 11:17-18)

In using the metaphor of an olive tree, Paul makes it very clear that the mission to the Gentiles is not something new….but as an extension of Israel’s divine call to be the people of God.

Through the growth of new branches, the Apostle hopes that the Jewish people will have the veil lifted from their eyes. In witnessing the Gentiles streaming to the Christian movement, they would see that Jesus was indeed the anointed one foretold in the prophets.

Interestingly, we have yet another discussion of roots in Jeremiah:

Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare (Jeremiah 29:5-7)

In Exile, the Jews found themselves on the outside looking in. As foreigners which had to lay down roots in a foreign land and hope to prosper……they were not always the strong tree.

So what does that say for us??? I think one of the messages is that–spiritually–we are called to lay down roots wherever we are. Just as the Son of Man has no place to rest his head, so are his disciples called to always be flexible, on the move and adaptable.

There is nothing wrong with laying down roots. That’s a natural human impulse. It allows us some level of comfort, and ability to spread the gospel without being anxious about how we will eat, and where we will find shelter. My hope is that our roots may be healthy ones…..nurtured by God’s Word and the Holy Spirit; so that if we have to move and make changes, the transplant will lead to ever more abundant growth. +

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