The scriptures for next Sabbath/Sunday are: Joel 2:23-32; Psalm 65; II Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-4.
Church is a joyful, wonderful experience of ceaseless celebration because it is based and built upon the rock of the dependable and indomitable redemption of God. Our God is more than Creator and Sustainer. More is needed because of the tragic condition of human existence. God supersedes all imagination, expectation and retaliation when God takes up the cause of our redemption. Our God is Redeemer in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. From Genesis to Revelation, God redeems, restores and reestablishes the Covenanted relationship between God and humankind.
Joel illustrates this theme. Judgment has been visited upon Israel in punishment for sin. The punishment is painful. Locusts are devouring all the food supplies. Justice is real; but restoration outdistances it and redemption is the final word. No matter how tragic and terrible the present moment may be, judgment does not have the final word. God’s final and gracious word is Redemption!
Psalm 65 celebrates and praises our God who answers prayer, recreates the universe and baptizes the earth in rain that it may abundantly produce a fruitful harvest. God is the eternal power of rejuvenation, revitalization and restoration! Praise God!
II Timothy 4 is a wonderful scripture that anticipates the ultimate victory of the saints of God and saved of Christ. The crown of righteousness is reserved for those who fight the fight, finish the course and keep the faith. The sight is glorious and the end is victorious. God’s great history of the world has a happy ending because there is no power, no problem and no experience that is greater than God’s love.
Luke 18:9-14 combats the primary temptation of all religion, namely smug, supercilious conceit and a feeling of superiority and self-righteousness. It is ironic that those who themselves are saved by grace are tempted to use their own salvation to denigrate and castigate those who are not yet conscious of salvation. Church folks love to play the part of the Publican who turned his nose up in contempt for the sinner. But the only honest way to approach God is as a sinner who knows that we are all in need of God’s continuous mercy and amazing grace!
Read and rejoice in our God, whose final word is Redemption!
C. G. A.