The prophet speaking for and to the returned exiles pleads for God to blast their enemies. But that doesn’t happen. It is time for a sort-of confession. “But you were angry when we sinned; you hid yourself when we did wrong” (ceb). Yes, they’ve sinned. But isn’t God supposed to fix everything when they ask? If not, then who needs God? “No one calls on your name; no one bothers to hold on to you, for you have hidden yourself from us” (ceb).
That’s the vending machine response. You know what I mean, don’t you? You put your money into the machine, push the button, and nothing comes out. So what do you do? You pound on the machine, shake it, maybe even give it a swift kick. Then you walk away and hold on to your anger. Long ago, when I was a kid, I put my dime (I said it was a long time ago) into a machine for a pack of chewing gum. Nothing came out. I pulled on the knob. Still nothing. My mom was ready to go, so I had to leave. I swore off chewing gum—for the next sixty years or so. That’s how some folks treat God when they don’t get their heart’s desire.
The prophet pleads once more: “Lord, you are our father. We are the clay and you are our potter. All of us are the work of your hand” (ceb). Is that really the way to move God to action: by blaming God for our sins, criticizing God for making defective people, and then abandoning us?
God, we are broken, bent out of shape. Remold us so that we can be closer to your dream for us. Please help us. Amen.
The readings from the Hebrew scriptures have a common theme: The people have sinned and turned away from God, and now they cry out for God to forgive them. Even though they have created the separation from God, the authors are confident that God will restore them. These images of longing for God are appropriate as we begin the season of Advent, and the expressions of thankfulness coincide with the celebration of Thanksgiving in the United States. Paul opens First Corinthians with thanksgiving for the Christians in Corinth. They have been richly blessed by God (although the rest of the letter shows that they, like us, are far from perfect). Again this week, the Gospel reading refers to the return of Christ, a day known only to God.
Read Isaiah 64:1-9. When have you treated God as a vending machine and held a grudge against God? What restored your faith or changed your perspective?
Read Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19. When have you been frustrated by others’ praises of God’s blessings? When have you cried out to God, “Restore us”?
Read 1 Corinthians 1:3-9. How do you ignore your spiritual gifts? What might your faith community look like if everyone employed their spiritual gifts?
Read Mark 13:24-37. What is your job in the household of God? How do you stay alert?
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