Lectionary Readings for Sept. 15. Exodus 32:7-14, Ps. 51:1-10, 1Tim. 1:12-17, Luke 15:1-10
"And the Lord changed his mind..." Ex. 32:14
I love this line! Even God's plans have contingencies and are open to change! The empowering thing is that the change happens because Moses intercedes, his prayers and arguments make a difference to God! It kind of shakes up our complacency about things if we take this story seriously. (And there are other Bible stories where the mind of God is changed too. My favorite is the one about the Syrophoenician woman in Mark 7:24-30. She argues with Jesus and he relents.) One of the things I love the most about these sorts of stories is that they set such a strong example. Too many times people "stick to their guns" instead of gracefully accepting that another position might be the better one. If even God can change, there should be hope for us!
This week the news about Obama's "red-line" and forceful threats have been everywhere in the news. This morning one report talked about the appearance of weakness if Obama would back down or change his mind. What is that!!! Being able to back down, or admit a mistake, or change course in a case like this should be seen as strength, not weakness.
It is, however, so very hard to back down. So often in our statements and actions we burn bridges behind us, making it feel impossible to change.
In Psalm 51, the poet implores God for mercy. To paraphrase him; "God, I deserve the punishment, but please change Your mind about me! Restore me." In the last verses, the poet shifts the focus from himself individually, to include the welfare of his people as well. He wants some wholesome change and isn't shy about asking for it, starting with himself.
The Timothy scripture reminds us of the incredible change that is possible. Paul is the "worst" of sinners, yet God changed him and he becomes an example of God's mercy.
All these scriptures assure us our calls to God are efficacious, that change is possible, and that mercy exists even where it seems impossible.Then the passage in Luke gives us the story of the Lost Sheep. It's not by accident that this story is told to grumblers. The pharisees and scribes were annoyed with the way Jesus extended mercy to sinners, after all, that's not what they deserved. By their unchanging attitudes, (burnt bridges) these leaders couldn't extend mercy, couldn't see the benefits of what Jesus was doing, wouldn't consider new ideas, and were completely resistant to possible change.
When are we the grumblers and resistant to changes God is calling us to make? What changes are we asking of God? And perhaps, as a follow up question, what things are already good and should stay the same?