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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, June 5, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Acts 2:22–36          

“You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know—this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ “Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, ‘He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.’ This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”‘ Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (NRSV)

Paul’s listeners were having difficulty seeing the reality of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ: how could something as good and glorious as God’s salvation be revealed as a result of the brutal suffering that humans had wrought upon God’s chosen one?

This reminds me of a struggle many members of the Fourth Church community have experienced in recent days. We have been engaged in conversations about racism, white privilege, systemic oppression, and intersectional identity so that we can work toward being a community that works for justice and dignity for all. Part of what has made this so hard for many of us is the realization that we have been a part of sinful systems of oppression, that we have benefited from the subjugation of others. If that’s the case, then how can we, compromised as we are, meaningfully work to produce justice?

Allan Boesak, church leader and anti-apartheid activist from South Africa, gives us encouragement for the struggle toward justice, saying, “It is not in ourselves that our strength lies, but it is in the conviction that with God all things are possible. It is the conviction that the struggle for justice, human dignity and worth, and the wholeness of the earth is not ours alone. We might lose a battle, but the conviction that with God all things are possible will survive, rise above defeat, make us brave beyond our weaknesses, strong beyond our fears” (Allan Aubrey Boesak, Dare We Speak of Hope).

It’s not up to us alone to make God’s justice and salvation a reality in the world. Even though we know we are broken and our attempts at justice are compromised and incomplete, our faith calls us to participate in the work that God is doing.

God of grace and power, we give you thanks that you are able to redeem even our worst mistakes, to bring forth from them beautiful results. Give us courage for facing the difficult struggles of these days. Make us strong to address injustice, even our own complicity. Help us to be faithful members of your community of peacemakers, trusting in your Holy Spirit to save us. In the name of Jesus, your chosen Redeemer, who leads us in this work, we pray. Amen.

Written by Hardy H. Kim, Associate Pastor for Evangelism

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