Monday, July 20, 2020
Collect for Today

God of faithful surprises, throughout the ages you have made known your love and power in unexpected ways and places: May we daily perceive the joy and wonder of your abiding presence and offer our lives in gratitude for our redemption. Amen.
Today's Scripture Readings

Psalm 41, 52 * 44
Joshua 7:1-13
Romans 13:8-14
Matthew 26:36-46

Hymns of Healing: You are the Seed
If last week’s gardening hymns were “songs of innocence,” hopeful songs of unrealized possibilities, this week’s hymns are the “songs of experience.” In Matthew 13’s parable of the wheat and the tares, Jesus tells about a garden that’s been sabotaged with weeds. But in an act of mercy, the garden’s owner lets the weeds grow along with the grain until harvest time.

I hear this parable as a call to discernment amid uncertain circumstances. Even if we fancy ourselves among the wheat in the parable, very rarely will we find ourselves in unadulterated good soil. Often we’ll find ourselves rubbing shoulders with the tares, or sometimes turning into tares ourselves. Trusting that our heavenly Gardener has things under control, our job is to strive to further his kingdom here on earth, however imperfectly, until it ultimately arrives in all its glory.

Today’s hymns are about that experience of living in two worlds at once -- our earthly home, and the imminent kingdom of God that keeps trying to make itself seen. Whether we’re singing an English harvest hymn that’s become a Thanksgiving standard, a Spanish hymn of discipleship, a contemporary Irish praise song, or a Welsh prayer for vision, we ask that God might be revealed ever more fully in our own lives.
We Are Climbing Jacob's Ladder
This week’s Old Testament lesson is the well-known story of Jacob’s ladder from Genesis 28. Jacob falls asleep and dreams of a ladder to heaven, with angels ascending and descending. When he wakes, he says something that might apply to our lives at any random moment: “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it! How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

“We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder” emerged as a spiritual during the days of African-American slavery. The Rev. James Cone once wrote that “Climbing,” along with other Jacob spirituals, signified “black people expressing their solidarity with Jacob and his struggle for a new identity.” This choral arrangement emphasizes the struggle in its perpetual modulations upward, as though the choir is climbing the rungs of that ladder to heaven; and it reflects the faith that, no matter what our circumstances, God continually draws us closer to the kingdom of heaven.