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The Plot Thickens

September 13, 2021

“Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth.  Strangers are attacking me; ruthless men seek my life—men without regard for God.”  Psalm 54: 2-3.

The Bible has all of the themes found in great literature—love, lust, betrayal, jealousy, greed, pride, murder, etc.  These themes also play prominent roles in mysteries. I have been an aficionado of mysteries from an early age.  I started devouring Nancy Drew mysteries at age 8 and graduated to Sherlock Holmes in middle school. Later, I broadened my mystery reading to G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown stories and other mysteries.   

In this week’s Scripture texts[1] the plot thickens for three Biblical heroes—including Jesus, the divine Superhero.  Even though murder plots are revealed against our three heroes, we are comforted, because we, the readers, know the outcomes.

King Saul led the way in the plot to kill David, but others joined in the hunt for his blood: “Save me, O God, by your name; vindicate me by your might.  Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth.  Strangers are attacking me; ruthless men seek my life—men without regard for God.  Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me. Let evil recoil on those who slander me; in your faithfulness destroy them” (Psalm 54: 1-5).  Through the grace of God, David was spared from death at the hands of these murderous thugs, but he continued to turn to God for help and protection throughout his life.

Jeremiah preached under Judah’s last five kings.  The nation was on a descent to destruction, which ended in its capture by Babylon in 586 B.C.   Jeremiah’s warnings and pleas to the people to return to God fell on deaf ears.  The Lord told Jeremiah about the plot hatched by people in his hometown to kill him for preaching. Their motivations to kill him included greed (his preaching hurt the idol-makers’ businesses); politics; religion; and hatred for showing them that they were wrong.  

Jeremiah turned to God and pled with him: “But you, Lord Almighty, who judge righteously and test the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance on them, for to you I have committed my cause” (Jeremiah 11: 20).  God rescued him from that murder plot, but other murderous schemes and persecutions followed.  Jeremiah was faithful to the end. He is a great example of courage in the face of injustice and opposition.  

In Sunday’s gospel text, Mark records that Jesus told his disciples of the plot to kill him for the second time: “He said to them, ’The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.  But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it” (Mark 9: 31-32).   

Maybe they didn’t pose any follow-up questions because Jesus had scolded them for protesting the first time that he told them.  More likely, they didn’t ask questions because they were too caught up in their own selfish ambitions to even try to comprehend what he was saying: “’What were you arguing about on the road?’  But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.  Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last and the servant of all’” (Mark 9: 33-35).  Clearly, they still did not understand the sacrifices ahead.  And while Jesus continued to try to get through to them, they were arguing about who is going to be Vice-President and Secretary of State when Jesus came to power. 

James warns against such selfish ambition: “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.  Such ‘wisdom’ does not come from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.  For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every evil practice.  But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:14-17).

As the plot thickens in your life, and temptations, ambition, and schemes swirl around you, follow David’s, Jeremiah’s, and Jesus’ examples.  Turn to God to confess your sins and for comfort, refuge, and protection against those who would do you harm.

Prayer: Merciful God, we confess that we have sinned in many ways.  Like Paul, we often do what we should not do, and do not do those things that we should do.  We thank and praise you for who you are, the Almighty God who knows each of us from the inside out and still forgives us, despite our shortcomings.  Keep us from all people and things that may hurt us.  Open our hearts and minds to discern your will and lead us to avenues to accomplish your purposes for our lives.  We ask these things in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit. Amen

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost are Jeremiah 11: 18-20; Psalm 54; James 3:13-4: 10; Mark 9: 30-37. Another version of this blog was published in September 2018.

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