Week of Proper 20: Friday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:  Christ and Pilate, by Nikolai Ge

Sovereignty of God

SEPTEMBER 23, 2022


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

A season is set for everything, a time for every experience under heaven:

A time for being born and a time for dying,

A time for planting and a time for uprooting the planted;

A time for slaying and a time for a time for healing,

A time for tearing down and a time for building up;

A time for weeping and a time for laughing,

A time for wailing and a time for dancing;

A time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones,

A time for embracing and a time for shunning embraces;

A time for seeking and a time for losing,

A time for keeping and a time for discarding;

A time for ripping and a time for sewing,

A time for silence and a time for speaking;

A time for loving and a time for hating;

A time for war and a time for peace.

What value, then, can the man of affairs get from what he earns?  I have observed the business that God gave man to be concerned with:  He brings everything to pass precisely at its time; He also puts eternity in their mind, but without man ever guessing, from first to last, all the things that God brings to pass.  Thus I realized that the only worthwhile thing there is for them is to enjoy themselves and do what is good in their lifetime; also, that whenever a man does eat and drink and get enjoyment out of all his wealth, it is a gift of God.

Psalm 144:1-4 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Blessed be the LORD my rock!

who trains my hands to fight and my fingers to battle;

2  My help and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer,

my shield in whom I trust,

who subdues the peoples under me.

3  O LORD, what are we that you should care for us?

mere mortals that you should think of us?

4  We are like a puff of wind;

our days like a passing shadow.

Luke 9:18-22 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now one day when he [Jesus] was praying alone in presence of his disciples he put this question to them,

Who do the crowds say I am?

And they answered,

John the Baptist; others Elijah; and others say one of the ancient prophets come back to life.

He said,

But you, who do you say I am?

It was Peter who spoke up.

The Christ of God,

he said.  But he [Jesus] gave them strict orders not to tell anyone anything about this.

The Son of Man

he said

is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.


The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


I feel confident in writing that Ecclesiastes is far from the most optimistic book in the Bible.  This fact does not negate the text, which contains profound truths.  Among those truths is this one:  God is in control.  Koheleth tells me that human actions cancel each other out, so we cannot reap real advantage from our deeds.  Yet we can, by grace, at least enjoy our actions.

The other reading in this day’s lectionary assignment is part of one of the Synoptic account of St. Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah.  In it our Lord predicts his fate.  If we read Luke 9:18-22 with the main idea of Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 in mind, we discover congruency.  God is in charge.  The authorities will do their worst (Let us never minimize the severity of it.), but God will reverse the execution.  Those who plotted the judicial murder of Jesus will not have long to think that they have succeeded.

Neither lection is especially cheerful, but at least the underlying sovereignty of God ought to comfort us.  It will not do so if we are control freaks, but control is more illusion than not.  It is better to live in a state of liberation from illusions, so that we will embrace reality instead.  If we accept that God is sovereign, we will not burden ourselves needlessly with vain and futile pursuits of control.  And what further joys might we discover then?



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