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Psalm 95, Matthew 25:31-40 (or to 46)
Life seems to be re-starting nearly every day after the longest year ever. Many of us have brain fog, struggling with memory… was that last week or six months ago? What seemed normal is often now unimaginable. It seems like we can declare a victory over COVID-19 and yet…new variants are spreading, more than 30% of our population is not protected with vaccines, and children of God who live in other – poorer- countries continue to struggle with massive deaths and infections due to lack of resources and great inequality. Some of us may feel both a sense of relief and gratitude, as well as one of guilt and un-ease.
In the past weeks we’ve noticed a surge in outbursts of rage in airplanes, grocery stores and public places. Rates of un violence and crime are going through the roof. A recent article in The Guardian surmises that “In our hurry to return to life as we knew it before 2020, some of us have begun to behave as if nothing un-usual or disturbing had occurred. On Saturday nights, in bars and restaurants, the massive collective traumas that our nation has just experienced –the pandemic and the 6 January Capitol insurrection – might al-most seem like figments of our collective imagine… at moments it seems as if we, as a nation, are suffering a societal nervous breakdown, a mass episode of amnesia.”
Today’s scriptures address just such a nervous breakdown and mass episode of amnesia. Psalm 95 echoes the worship-full language found in Psalm 95 to 100. But it also continues a stern warning to not harden your heart. The psalmist recalls the story of collective amnesia among the Israelites in the wilderness when they struggled to find water. Told in Exodus 17, we see that in the blink of an eye they turned on Moses and God, forgetting all of God’s faithfulness. And so they named this place both Meribah (which means quarrel-ing) and Massah (which means testing). How could they simply forget how God delivered them from slavery in Egypt and through both the sea and the desert?
The parable in Matthew 25 is part of Jesus’ reply to questions posed by the disciples about the future. It’s a teaching that is the mission statement for the national Presbyterian Church (USA). It seems to be a different sort of amnesia, maybe more of an unawareness due to hard-heartedness. Jesus draws a direct connection between how we love our neighbor and how we love God.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION & EXAMEN:
Download a Text Study Sheet on the Scriptures HERE.