An old insurance company term for natural disasters is “acts of God,” which unfortunately links the Holy One with everything awful and unforeseen that can befall humanity, as if God were not just capricious but wrathful and cruel.
The mark of a good wonder-worker is his similarity to wonder-workers of the past. Though Jesus exceeded Moses in teaching authority, his miraculous acts are patterned after his prophetic forebears Elijah and Elisha.
When I was a child and the lectionary rolled around to passages about clean and unclean foods, kosher and not, Pharisaic daintiness and gentile appetites, I concluded that the bizarre past was intruding on the normal present. The idea that you could judge and be judged by what you ate was as alien as any other item in the Levitical code.
Fred Snodgrass made one mistake and the world never let him forget it. Snodgrass was playing center field for the New York Giants in the 1912 World Series against the Red Sox. The teams were tied in the tenth inning when a fly ball fell into Snodgrass’s mitt—and he dropped it. The Red Sox won the series, and the error stuck with Snodgrass the rest of his life.
Thomas used to shock me. I agreed with John Calvin that “the stupidity of Thomas was astonishing and monstrous . . . he was not only obstinate, but also proud and contemptuous in his treatment of Christ.” To be called a Doubting Thomas would have been a soul-shaking insult to my faith.
For a number of years our church has had a pastoral internship program designed for intensive discipleship training and character formation. From time to time, our interns are asked: “Is your church a cult?” We laugh about this, but the concern is understandable, especially given the society we live in.
The promise of Isaiah 65 is that God is doing a new thing. There will be a new creation: a new heaven and a new earth. In this new dispensation things are going to change big time. “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox.” No longer must one consume another to survive in this new world.
In my (southern) Baptist tradition, preachers don’t generally use the lectionary. If we come up with a decent reflection that’s somewhat related to one recognizable biblical passage, it’s been a good week. But these three passages together pack a powerful punch.