In our own world, the Bethesda story reminds us of the fact that social and economic systems meant to assist the needy often keep them in poverty. Our story suggests that the 40 million Americans who live in poverty will need to doubt and challenge the system, and to look for help outside of it. Further, our sermons will need to speak life into death as a reminder that there is life beyond the system.
The familiarity of the 23rd Psalm can blind us to the striking political dimensions of its message: YHWH is the shepherd of the king, protecting him from enemies and granting his kingdom prosperity. Close reflection upon this psalm may also suggest some significant applications within the contemporary world.
John’s account of Jesus’ commissioning of his disciples differs from that of the Synoptics in illuminating ways. Through an understanding of the relationship between Jesus’ own commission and that of his disciples, we can gain a richer appreciation of the primary character of our political task.
The political resonances of Palm Sunday sound clearly when we read as if we didn’t already know the end of the story.
In Jesus’ acceptance of Mary’s act of devotion, in his ministry to and for the poor, in his unwillingness to betray Judas (even as Judas was soon to betray him), Jesus models for us an approach to poverty, to politics, indeed, to one another that is based not in fear but in hope.
The king of Israel was charged with reciting a psalm that contained reflection and humility alongside confidence. Moreover, he was charged with waiting on God. If God’s own instrument in the Bible was charged with this, how much more are we?
Luke makes it clear that it is God, and God alone, who can best align our lives and realities, to make us whole and healthy, and to give us a life worth living, a life most “human.”
Isaiah’s call to prophesy judgment against Israel challenges us to remember God’s sovereignty over all political systems, even those that are disastrous in our eyes. Could God’s judgment be the decisive turning point toward healing?
God’s prophets are those who call us to recognize our limitations before the sovereignty of God. Indeed, Jeremiah reminds us of the relativity of human politics and that in God alone does the individual and human society find meaning and security.
Nehemiah 8 reminds us that hearing the word of God is an occasion for joy, not sorrow and regret.