Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Brother (or sister) Problem

One of the texts for today is the story of Cain and Abel and it is certainly a challenging one to grapple with.  There are a lot of memorable words and images in it:
    - "If you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door, you must master it"
   -  " Am I my brother's keeper?"
   -  "What have you done?  Your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground!"
   - "The Lord put the a mark on Cain, so that no one who came upon him would kill him."
   -  "Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord,  and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden."

In his commentary on Genesis Walter Brueggemann takes the story as it is as another perception of "our fractured human world. " The problem begins with what appears to be an unfair preference by God for the offering of Abel.  It is an outward circumstance that he cannot control And it infuriates him.  God warns him but his anger takes over and he murders his brother.

I was interrupted when I was writing this by a phone call and found myself using the word - "enraged"  - about how I feel right now about our president.  His tweets that seem to have no basis in fact make me crazy.  I read about "Trump Stress" that is affecting many people and I am one of them. The temptation is to allow it to color way too much of my time.  Sin is definitely lurking at my door. And there have been times over the years that the "brother (or sister) problem" has affected and infected my life as difficult people or unfair situations have led me into anger, resentment and - if not murder - certainly character assassination.  So, I get it.

And then, there is God who is present.  Watching and warning Cain and eventually protecting him. It is a picture ultimately of grace.  Cain is led out of Eden but protected by God.  One of the other texts for today was from Hebrews 4 and contains these verses:

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession.
 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.
 Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

We come to the Bible and we come to prayer to face ourselves in our weakness and to acknowledge our participation in the fractures of the world we live in. So, I remember that I come to Jesus who lived in this mess of a world and contronted as much unfairness and corruption as anyone.  His teachings and his life show a way of persevering in love and forgiving his enemies.  And the Hebrews scripture reminds me that he sympathizes with my weakness and invites me to come in confession.

So the mantra for today is  

Here is a prayer by Walter Brueggemann

You are the God from whom no secret can be hid, 
and we are a people with many secrets, that we want to tell for the sake of our lives,
 that we dare not tell because they are deep and painful.  
But they are our secrets… and they count for much; 
they are our truth… rooted deep in our lives.
 You are the God of all truth, and now we bid you heed our truth,
 about which we will not bear false witness…
 The truth of grief unresolved,
 the truth of pain unacknowledged,
the truth of fear too child-like,
the truth of hate, as powerful as it is deep,
 the truth of being taken advantage of, and being used, and manipulated, and slandered.
 We trust the great truth of your wondrous love, but we will not sit still for it, UNTIL you hear us.
 Our truth – heard by you – will make us free.  
So be the God of all truth, even ours, we pray in the name of Jesus, who is your best kept secret of hurt.

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