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Evil in Our Eyes and Transforming Grace in Our Hearts
Reflecting on Trinity Sunday: Three Days after Sunday (Year C)
Psalter: Psalm 124
Old Testament: Daniel 1:1-21
Gospel: Luke 1:46b-55
God of heaven and earth, before the foundation of the universe and the beginning of time you are the triune God: the Author of creation, the eternal Word of salvation, and the life-giving Spirit of wisdom. Guide us to all truth by your Spirit, that we may proclaim all that Christ revealed and rejoice in the glory he shared with us. Glory and praise to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever” (Luke 1:50-55).
Two hunters were flown deep into a remote part of Canada in search of elk. When they started home, their pilot, seeing that they had bagged six elk, told them the plane could carry only four. The hunters protested. “The plane that carried us out last year was exactly like this one. The horsepower was the same, the weather was similar, and we had six elk then.” Hearing this, the pilot reluctantly agreed to try. They loaded the plane and took off. Unfortunately, the plane did not have sufficient power to climb out of the valley with all that weight, so they crashed. As they stumbled from the wreckage, one hunter asked the other if he knew where they were. “Well, I'm not sure,” replied the second hunter, “but I think we are about two miles from where we crashed last year.”
In the book of Judges, Israel continues to forget its experiences of calamity resulting from their disobedience. In several places throughout the Judges cycle, we read, “Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD” (2:11; 3:7; 3:12; 4:11; 6:1; 10:6; 13:1; ). On every occasion that the Israelites “did evil,” they fell under the control of a foreign people; and on every occasion, God sent a Judge or, more correctly, a Deliverer to free them. One would think that after one or two cycles of sin, slavery and then freedom, God's people would have learned from their experiences. Perhaps some assumed that God would deliver them regardless of how they behaved. One thing is certain—human beings tend to suffer from chronic moral amnesia.
It is an example of God's amazing grace that he continues to offer deliverance in spite of our repeated attempts to live life our own way. That does not provide an excuse for us, as St. Paul states, “Shall we sin that grace may abound? Absolutely not!” (Romans 6:15). God’s grace is not passive; it is an active, transforming thing. Martin Luther, in his commentary on Romans, states, “Faith, however, is a divine work in us. It changes us and makes us to be born anew of God.... Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man would stake his life on it a thousand times.... Hence a man is ready and glad, without compulsion, to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer everything, in love and praise to God, who has shown him his grace.”
While the offer of grace is always available, so is its transforming nature. Jesus welcomes all to the foot of the cross, but we must be prepared to carry our cross as we leave. That is why Jesus told us to count the cost (Luke 14:27-30). St. Augustine's famous dictum holds true: “He who made us without ourselves, will not save us without ourselves.”
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