52 Weeks at the Table – Week 12
The descendants of Israel, over the centuries, endured many dark ages. Their sojourn in Egypt had become slavery, and though Moses and Joshua had led them out and through a desert time, both died. And the theme of the book detailing their succeeding – but largely failing – judges was one of the darkest. Twice it reminds us, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” (Judges 17:6; 21:25). Mostly, they saw fit to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, an expression found seven times within its pages. Idolatry, forbidden intermarriage, internecine warfare – many of their sins began with “I.” Women like the prophetess Deborah and housewife Jael (and an unnamed female warrior who dropped a millstone on the head of an attacking king) rose to noble roles while men followed meekly. Just as often, they were the objects of cruelty from plundering armies, and an anonymous Levite who let the perverts of Gibeah complete the abominable sin threatened at Sodom centuries before.
Into such a dark age came Jesus of Nazareth, when a puppet king named Herod ruled Israel and puppet priests had made an idol of their interpretations of God’s law. Pharisees quibbled with Sadducees while Zealots plotted to overthrow occupying rule, including collaborators like tax collectors. Women like the prophetess Anna, Jesus’ mother Mary, an entourage of supporting listeners, an an unnamed soul at a well in Sychar of Samaria, rose to positions of honor by telling others about Him while men followed meekly. Just as often, women of poor reputation or caught in sin were made objects of ridicule and threat. So noble women stood at a distance from His cross of shame and went to keep vigil at His tomb.
A Prayer Over the Bread
Father God, each of us lives through our own dark times, times when our sins begin with “I.” We lose our faith, regain it, only to lose it again. And each of us does as he or she sees fit. We fail to destroy the idols in our lives. We flirt with evil. We bicker with our brothers and sisters. And we yearn to live nobly. Thank You for Jesus, who calls us to nobility; to a position of judging self, and judging rightly. Thank You for His willingness to be the object of cruelty to show us what true evil is – His willingness to be the body on that cross; His power to abandon that tomb. And His willingness to make us part of His body, His church. Thank You for this bread, His body. Amen.
A Prayer Over the Cup
Righteous God, though we may not have spilled blood, the malice in our hearts has sometimes made them as wicked as if we had. Forgive us of these our sins through the blood of your Son, and through this cup of remembrance, let His blood flow in us to cleanse and renew and invigorate and give life that is better, life without end. Life that does as You see fit, not us. Turn our times of darkness into Your glorious light. Turn our cowardice into courage. Inspire us to speak Your words and do Your will, for the sake of the blood of Your Son. In His name we say: Amen.