Psalm 107:1-9; 1 Samuel 5:1-7:1; Luke 24:28-35

Psalm 107:1-9: This psalm is a praise hymn, “Acclaim the LORD, for He is good, / for His kindness is forever.” The reason for praise comes in the very next verse: “Let the LORD’s redeemed ones say, / whom he redeemed from the hand of the foe,” (2).  Alter notes that “redeemed” is not theological here, but that the singers have literally been rescued from physical captivity.

There is a contrast here between “scattered” and “gathered” as God “gathered them from the lands, / from east and west, from north and south.” (3) And in the next verses between “wandering” and “straight:”They wandered in wilderness, waste land, / found no road to a settled town,” (4) and “He led them on a straight road to go to a settled town.” (7)

God gathers his scattered, wandering sheep and sets us on the “straight road.” For me, this is one of God’s important qualities that we don’t talk about very much. In our daily lives, we too often feel scattered by all its demands and distractions. We wander from task to task, place to place, never feeling that we’ve accomplished anything worthwhile or gotten to where we wanted to get.

But when we look to God, we realize that God is Order–and He brings order to our lives. (After all, God has created a beautiful, ordered world: just ask any physicist)  By reflecting on God’s kindness, as the singers do in this psalm, our minds and souls are gathered together into peaceful coherence and and we can see a clear straight path ahead. But as I have discovered, this is something I need to do every day.

1 Samuel 5:1-7:1: The Philistines quickly discover that their great war trophy, the Ark of the Covenant, brings disaster, not triumph. They set it up in their temple next to their idol, Dagon. In an almost humorous note, Dagon is found the next morning, fallen from its shelf onto its face. Then the next morning, the idol has been msteriously cut in pieces. The Philistines wisely conclude that they will be better off without the Ark and pass it off to the willing inhabitants of Gath. Disaster ensues –something like the black plague–as they plead, “let it return to its own place, that it may not kill us and our people.” (5:11).  It’s clear the Ark belongs only to one tribe: Israel.

Now the problem is how to get it back to Israel. After consulting the priests, the Ark is placed on a wooden cart together with a guilt offering, gold shaped as mice and as the tumors. The whole affair is pulled by two milk cows(!) The cows wander off and come back to Israel at Beth-shemesh.  The people recognize the Ark, and “When they looked up and saw the ark, they went with rejoicing to meet it.” (6:13). After seven months, the Ark is back in its rightful land.

The lesson here is not only that God is more powerful than the false Gods, but God will be mocked. Had the Philistines realized that the God of Israel was more powerful than their own, and that the Ark was something far greater than a war trophy, there may have been a very different outcome for them. So too, today, where God has been determined to be a delusion by those who claim to be wise. What fate awaits them?

 Luke 24:28-35: We owe much to the unnamed walkers on the road to Emmaus. Even though they had not recognized Jesus, and as the reach Emmaus, Jesus “walked ahead as if he were going on.” (28) Notice Luke’s “as if.” Jesus seems to be performing a little test. Will these two men invite him, a stranger, to dinner? They do, and they recognize Jesus as he breaks bread with them.

I think Luke’s message is, even though we may not recognize Jesus as he walks along side us, will we invite the stranger in? This incident in Emmaus seems to be an acting out of Jesus’ all-important words in Matthew 25 (“I was hungry and you fed me…”) By offering kindness to this seeming stranger, the Emmaens offered kindness to Jesus himself. As we, too, should offer kindness to those who are hungry and in need. For we may also find we are indeed supping with Jesus.

As well, like the Emmaens, we have that same opportunity to recognize who Jesus is anew each and every time we come to the altar rail to join him in supper. It is not a ritual; it is a cause of rejoicing and to realize that our hearts are also burning in the passionate joy that the risen Jesus brings to us.

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