Bishop's Lectionary Reflection
Proper 27, Year B
November 7, 2021
Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17
Desolation and despair is turned around. Naomi and Ruth, now living in Bethlehem, have access to food and no longer face certain death. Naomi works with Ruth on a plan to secure Ruth’s place in society and in the world. Good fortune happens as Ruth is married to Boaz and produces a son who becomes the father of Jesse and then of David…the line through which salvation comes to the entire world. Desolation and despair have been turned around. Blessings abound. God has moved and worked mightily through the lives of these two women and their friendship.
When life batters us and we face hard times, we need to be reminded that God is working through our circumstances to bring us into harmony, peace, and serenity of life. He longs to restore us to security in Him. For Ruth and Naomi, while they suffered the desolation of widowhood and loss of security, God moved in their lives and brought them back. How is God moving in your life to draw you more closely into His love and serenity? Spend a few moments journaling about this, or talk to a trusted friend.
“Nisi dominus... unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain.” In Southern Virginia we know these words from our Diocesan seal…an ever present reminder that without God we can do nothing. God is the foundation of all effort. As we emerge from the pandemic, many are worried about the future of the church and whether we return to our pre-pandemic size and energy. We are working hard to return. But in our hard work, let us remember that God is the foundation of all we do. We are God’s beloved and He watches over our work…and our rest.
As you go about your work today, pause several times to remind yourself that God is at the root of all you do. He loves you, has given you work to do and longs to walk alongside you as you do it. What conversation can you and He have as you work together?
This selection from Hebrews speaks to the efficacy and permanency of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. Christ’s work stands alone, without the aid of any human effort, and secures once and for all human salvation. His work is different from that of human priests whose job it was to offer sacrifices time and time again for the atonement of sin. His work was a complete sacrifice of himself that does not need to be repeated. He has won for us the victory and any return trip among us will not be to repeat that work, but to gather up those of us who are waiting for Him to take us home with Him.
What does it mean to live as if we truly understand that our sins are forgiven –- that nothing further separates us from God? Armed with that knowledge, can we greet the world with joy? Will those who watch us see evidence that we are free? Do we truly understand and accept the power that God offers us?
In this Gospel selection from Mark, we see two ways of practicing faith. The first, Jesus warns against, is a piety that is for show only. Certain scribes practice this faith, attracting attention to themselves by what they wear, who greets them in public places, how they pray and where they sit in banquets and other public gatherings. They have no regard for the poor and lowly and particularly not for widows whose livelihoods they consume without asking. This way of practicing the faith does not lead to eternal life but only to self-glorification. Another way of practicing the faith is to do so quietly, almost secretly. Jesus draws his disciples’ attention to a poor widow who puts in all that she has into the Temple Treasury. She is not responding to the scribes who would demand her money, but to her love for God and her desire to give sacrificially. She is not asking attention to be drawn to herself and has no desire to glorify herself. She is letting go of worldly means in order to depend entirely on God for her sustenance. God sees all – the self-glorifying scribes and the self-effacing widow. His heart connects in love to the one who gives everything sacrificially and without need of public reward.
How do you practice your faith in God? Do you need to be acknowledged publicly in order to be secure, or do you give quietly and secretly? To what extent do your material goods or your need for financial security get in the way of your total reliance on God? God watches you. What is He asking you to surrender in order to be able to rely more fully on Him?
O God, whose blessed son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure, that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit one god, for ever and ever. Amen.