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Five Ways Into Sunday’s Scripture: Divine Possibility

‘I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.’ Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the LORD, saying, ‘Is the LORD among us or not?’

Exodus 17:6–7

The wisdom and rhythms of the lectionary help us unlock the cyclical mysteries of life on earth. Week after week, our ancient texts open portals in our hearts and minds, allowing us to reimagine ways of being in the world and in relationship with God and one another.  

This Sunday’s readings show us God is with us in all times and places and, more than that, with God we always have the capacity to enter into something unexpected and new, no matter how hopeless we feel. Like fresh water from the rock in our story from Exodus, healing water can spring forth from the most trying times, the most fractured relationships, and the places we feel most broken.

But when we shut down our imaginations — to protect ourselves or our egos — we close our hearts to fresh perspective and new beginnings, and we make idols of the false binaries that break us. We distance ourselves from God’s ever-creating wholeness.

In the Gospel story, Jesus doesn’t mince words when the chief priests in the temple question his authority for ministry. Instead, he holds up a mirror to the hubris and hypocrisy of their leadership and power — their limited view of intimacy with God. What had changed in the twenty years between Jesus’s first visit to the temple, when he was met with astonishment and admiration, and the confrontation in this week’s story?

Was this the first time the rigid righteousness of the day had been challenged? It certainly wasn’t the last. Jesus used parables, some of which he might have heard from those very elders, to peel back the layers of human control and transaction that had been slowly baked into religious instruction and expression. The wisdom, passed up and down through generations, came alive in Jesus’s retelling.

Where in our lives can we allow God to peel back the layers and ignite our imaginations, closing the distance between ourselves, our neighbors, and God? What can we re-see or re-know to contribute to the divine possibility of human life on earth — as it is in heaven?

—Kathryn Carroll

Kathryn Carroll is Program Manager, Children and Family Formation, at Trinity Church Wall Street.

The hypocrisy of the religious establishment infuriated Jesus. Writer Debie Thomas speaks to the “struggle to bridge the gap between what we say we believe, and what we actually go out and do in light of those beliefs” in a commentary on Sunday’s Gospel reading.

Social Justice
What could a faith-based, pro-family agenda really look like in the United States? Adam Russel Taylor of Sojourners has a plan for reclaiming family values.

Speaking of wisdom shared across generations, this summer the Trinity Youth History Fellows worked to create mini-documentaries that follow the lived history of Trinity Church through the eyes of longtime members, honoring the stories of God’s love and deep wisdom shared by treasured members of Trinity’s congregation. Sign up to join a screening of these films this Sunday, October 1, at 1pm. 

In her music, faith, and activism, Sinead O’Connor pleaded for reimagined righteousness and peace. She was heard as a young rebel but dismissed with age, her persistence and perceived sins working against her. In “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace,” she sings the Prayer of Saint Francis.

In “Saint Francis and the Sow,” poet Galway Kinnell meditates on the life-giving power of reteaching and retelling that allows us — and all of creation — to blossom from within.

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