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Bunked down in Rolla, curled up listening for Jesus

by davesandel on August 22nd, 2021

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 22, 2021 (today’s lectionary)

Bunked down in Rolla, curled up listening for Jesus

Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem.

Sound familiar? Shechem, the primary place of worship for all of Israel, soon enough became a tribal hideout for the Samaritans, and by Jesus’ time racial hatred raged between the Samaritan Shechemites and the rest of Israel. But not in the days of Joshua.

Joshua summoned all the elders, their leaders, their judges and their officers. When the leaders and all the people stood in ranks before God, Joshua spoke.

This story merits a second reading this week in the lectionary, because it’s a “be brave, be strong” story. The Lord thy God is with thee. Joshua told the people to make up their minds what they would do, now, in each other’s presence, with words spoken aloud.

Decide today whom you will serve. There are other gods, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. We will serve Yahweh.

All the people joined him in his vow, although their promises didn’t last long.

Driving through north Texas, Oklahoma’s Choctaw and Creek counties, and the Ozark forests of Missouri, I listened to books. One was A Letter of Mary by Laurie King. Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes are married, and they investigate the murder of a renegade female archaeologist who thinks she might have found a papyrus letter from a woman named Mary to her sister Judith in Magdala.

Get it? In the letter Mary called herself an “apostle of the Jesus the messiah.”

I’m not the only one who loves stories from the Bible, and the extra-biblical highways and byways are fascinating too. Mary Russell imagines herself into the Bible and into the story of her friend the archaeologist.

In these 21st century days of shallow social media and stories that focus on the strengths and weaknesses of us humans with no regard for our Source, stories from the old days hold my attention. I can walk right in and set right down, let my hair hang down and feel the dust of the desert getting up into my throat.

I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall be ever in my mouth. The Lord confronts the evildoers, to destroy remembrance of them from the earth. Many are the troubles of the just one, but out of them all the Lord delivers him. He watches over all his bones; not one of them shall be broken. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

In New Seeds of Contemplation Thomas Merton said that “as long as we are on earth, the love that unites us will bring us suffering by our very contact with one another, because this love is the resetting of a Body of broken bones.” I drove 700 miles and saw practically no one today. Riding a bike seven miles would be a better way to see others, begin to be with them. Going for a walk around my apartment complex and saying hello is a good way to start.

Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

But it’s difficult to start, because I’ve become accustomed to thinking of myself as different from others. This will change, Merton says, when I “treat other men as if they were men, not to act as if I alone were a man, and every other human were an animal, or a piece of furniture.”

Brothers and sisters, be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Like his namesake Joshua, Jesus of Nazareth, Messiah of the World, insisted that the people choose whom they would serve. Lots of them left when he did this, especially when he told them they must eat his body and drink his blood.

Jesus asked the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

I think reading, imagining, and telling good stories reminds me of my own choosing, and invites others to make their choices too. As I sleep tonight, I await with anticipation what stories will appear out of this day, and how they guide me closer to the Body of broken bones. Like Peter, I don’t plan to leave Jesus. He has the words of eternal life.

(Joshua 24, Psalm 34, Ephesians 5, John 6, John 6)

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