your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge
in the shadow of your wings.
They are people who are going to live in community with each other, but they are still people. When they do wrong--either intentionally or unintentionally, the community may be harmed. Chapters 4 and 5 outline ways in which wrong-doers can accept the consequences and seek reconciliation.
Included in chapter 5 are specific actions that must be addressed. For example, hiding certain information or not keeping your promise to do something.
We moderns have different categories of guilt and different ways of dealing with wrong-doers, but we still have ways that are intended to get offenders to recognize and admit the harm they have caused the community, and ways to include them back if possible.
I found the alternative offerings section interesting. Richer people had to make more valuable offerings; poorer people, less valuable. The range was from an animal from a flock to two pigeons or doves, or, if even two birds were too expensive, the offering would be a small portion of flour.
A major criticism of Jesus was that he was willing to hang out with tax collectors (read collaborators with the Roman authorities who were by their tax policies bleeding the ordinary people dry) and sinners. His critics who were accustomed to follow religious rules and customs were very critical of him. When Jesus heard them asking his disciples about his willingness to share meals with unsuitable companions, he responded, "Well people don't need a doctor. Sick people do. I've not come to summon the righteous, but sinners."
He then uses two allegories: don't try to mend old clothes with an unwashed patch (i.e., what that is not pre-shrunk) and don't pour new wine into old wineskins.
After that, he defended his disciples' violation of the sabbath.
What should Christians do about those people who just will not follow the rules that we know are right? What should we do when we are faced with some new situations that just don't fit our old rules anymore?
And if his rash statements were not enough, he healed a man on the sabbath--in the synagogue. His enemies got together to look for ways to eliminate him and the threat he was making to their image of what religious life should be like.
Psalm 36 begins with describing the wicked--They aren't afraid of God; they don't think anyone is going to find out what bad things they have done; they cause trouble by word and deeds.
Then, the psalm changes in a couple of ways. The psalmist had been talking to us; now the psalm addresses God: Your steadfast love extends to the heavens. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains. Your judgments are as deep as the ocean.
The psalmist affirms God's love, protection, and abundant gifts then asks that it continue.
Sidelight: The Lord saves not only us humans but animals as well (v.6). I hadn't picked up on that myself until I read John H. Hayes' contribution to Preaching Through the Christian Year C.
What may initially strike us as odd in such a comparison or classification might not appear so if we give it some thought. The beast receives its blessings, its food, its livelihood witout setting out to please God or anybody; it makes no effort to measure up to any standard; it simply drinks in the benefits that come its way from the created order controlled by God. The writer is suggesting something similar is the case with humans.Do you agree with Hayes that we receive all our good things without trying to please God?
Prayer for Today: Choose a prayer from Joan Stott's website The Timeless Psalms.