Devotion for May 24 in Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Above:  Crucify Him! Crucify Him! (Puck Magazine, March 19, 1913)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Ecclesiastes and John, Part I:  Futility and Perceptions Thereof

MAY 24, 2021


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Ecclesiastes 1:1-18

Psalm 51 (Morning)

Psalms 142 and 65 (Evening)

John 6:60-71


Some parts–such as much of the Book of Proverbs–of the Bible seem overly optimistic to me.  The same rule applies to elements of the Torah.  Obey God, they say, and you (plural or singular) will flourish.  Life will consist of prosperity, safety, and cute, cuddly kittens which scamper about while looking adorable.  (Okay, I invented the part about kittens.)  Yet what about the Book of Job?  And what about the death of Jesus, the martyrdoms of ten of the original Apostles, and the martyrdom of St. Paul of Tarsus?  For that matter, what about the sufferings of faithful Christians since St. Stephen?

Koheleth, in Ecclesiastes 1, asked

What real value is there for a man

In all the gains he makes beneath the sun?

–Verse 3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Jesus lost followers in John 6:66.  I think also of St. Gregory Thaumaturgus (the Wonder-Worker), Bishop of Neocaesarea, Pontus, Asia Minor, who died in 268.  He had seventeen members of his flock when he became bishop.  For three decades he shepherded the Christians under his care through hardships, including a plague, a siege, and a Roman imperial persecution.  And, when he died, he still had only seventeen parishioners.  Had his work been in vain?

I think not.  If St. Gregory’s work has been in vain, so had our Lord’s.  But sometimes human concepts of work as leading to certain rewards fail to explain reality accurately.  Honest people scrape by sometimes while high-rolling criminals become wealthier.  Those whose greed tipped economies into globally-related recessions do not suffer financially, but innocents in the working class do.  I wonder what Koheleth would write about skullduggery in the world’s financial capitals and in the corridors of power in contemporary times.

Yet, sadly, Koheleth was partially correct in Chapter 1:  Much work is futile.  And this need not be the case.  Society is what people have made it, so is current reality can change.  May they do so for the benefit of more people, especially those without financial cushions and golden parachutes.  The Hebrew Prophets would approve.







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