God – the Giver of Grace

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S (Scripture): Judges 13:1 The Israelites again did things that the Lord saw as evil, and he handed them over to the Philistines for forty years.

2 Now there was a certain man from Zorah, from the Danite clan, whose name was Manoah. His wife was unable to become pregnant and had not given birth to any children. 3 The Lord’s messenger appeared to the woman and said to her, “Even though you’ve been unable to become pregnant and haven’t given birth, you are now pregnant and will give birth to a son! 4 Now be careful not to drink wine or brandy or to eat anything that is ritually unclean, 5 because you are pregnant and will give birth to a son. Don’t allow a razor to shave his head, because the boy is going to be a nazirite for God from birth. He’ll be the one who begins Israel’s rescue from the power of the Philistines.”

24 The woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson. The boy grew up, and the Lord blessed him. 25 The Lord’s spirit began to move him when he was in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.

O (Observation): So the Lord’s messenger shows up. When this happens, something REALLY BIG & IMPORTANT is going on.

In case any of you sense that the Old Testament is all Law and the New Testament is all Gospel, know this: the Lord sending Samson is “Gospel”! When Jesus sends a messenger, reaching to help God’s people – that’s Gospel!

The Law is that God’s people have erred again and God has released the people from God’s protection. Now the Philistines are in charge. But the Gospel saves: God sends help…in the form of baby. (Hmmm? Where else have I heard that???)

A (Application): How often do we feel abandoned by God? We may fail to see that we have drifted from God and the promises God has made to us in our baptism. We fail to see how God has adopted us. We fail to see how God wishes to bring us life. We try to create new life for ourselves…but that so often backfires.

I’m someone who likes to try new things, because I think that God gives me ideas to enact. But sometimes the way I go about the “new thing” makes it all about ME and how I will bring the Gospel. (Oops!)

Instead, God finds a way to be patient or to act lightening quick…God finds a way to erode away my ego and pride to expose my need for God’s mercy and grace…God finds a way to bring someone into my life (like Samson for the Israelites) who will give me guidance and direction and hope.

Maybe we will see a messenger. Maybe we won’t. But God is still with us: Sending people into our lives to guide us; giving us sustenance in bread and wine; reminding us of how God claims us every time we touch and see water.

P (Prayer): Lord, remind us that you are always beside us. Amen.

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Guns. Sustenance. God.

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S (Scripture): Matthew 15:32 Now Jesus called his disciples and said, “I feel sorry for the crowd because they have been with me for three days and have nothing to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry for fear they won’t have enough strength to travel.”

33 His disciples replied, “Where are we going to get enough food in this wilderness to satisfy such a big crowd?”

34 Jesus said, “How much bread do you have?”

They responded, “Seven loaves and a few fish.”

35 He told the crowd to sit on the ground. 36 He took the seven loaves of bread and the fish. After he gave thanks, he broke them into pieces and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37 Everyone ate until they were full. The disciples collected seven baskets full of leftovers. 38 Four thousand men ate, plus women and children.

O (Observation): This is the feeding of the 4,000. The feeding of the 5,000 came just a few verses earlier. The two feeding stories are very similar, calling forth an image of abundance in the midst of scarcity. The story is also about Jesus providing for those who have very little in their current circumstances. Because of his compassion, Jesus wishes for the crowd to be sustained.

And from their midst, they bring forth loaves and fish…just a few. But Jesus blesses their meager resources and makes it enough for all to eat…with 7 baskets leftover.

A (Application): Another mass shooting…in a school. Anger. Frustration. Sadness. Emptiness. Scarcity. Fragile.

Living in the Pit of despair. I couldn’t imagine speaking for the families of the dead and wounded. But as for me, I wallow in doubt and fear. I am empty. I have no words to share that would bring comfort or solace.

Yes, Jesus reigns, but what does that sound like to the parent of a child gunned down in a supposedly safe place? What does this moment mean for them?

From a distance, I can lean on this scripture today…that Jesus will take the meager resources at our disposal, will bless them, and will make sure that all who need sustenance will be sustained.

This sustenance may come as grief counselors, law enforcement officers, nurses, doctors, funeral home staff, friends, family, faith leaders, school teachers and administrators. While the shadow weighs heavy, may God stir up those around the dead and wounded, in order to provide sustenance for the days and weeks ahead.

P (Prayer): Lord, we seek your presence in our troubles times. Amen.