Tuesday Text, Sunday, September 30, 2018
“The king returned from the palace garden to the banquet room just as Haman was kneeling on the couch where Esther was reclining. “Will you even molest the queen while I am in the house?” Esther 7:8
One of Methodism’s contributions to the world is Charles’ hymn, “Love Divine All Loves Excelling.”
And one of the treasures offered to the world by this hymn is the line, “take away our bent to sinning.”
Wrapped inside the melodic packaging is the gift of the honest profession that we humans are mailable. That is, our lives take the shape of the practices we embody.
Life has this way of twisting us. Or, rather, the way we live our life bends us.
Watch someone who holds babies often, and note how their bodies naturally cradle the child’s head, how their hands hold the neck and their bodies sway almost effortlessly as they swaddle and rock and smooth and care.
Their bodies bend towards care.
See someone who cooks for a living and watch their hands and eyes move in a thousand directions at once, tending to each ingredient in harmony with the whole.
Their bodies bend toward nourishment.
Find a farmer who has tended land for so long that they can feel the rain in their bones and the soil is always under their fingernails.
Their bodies bend toward creation.
The converse is also true.
Find someone who has made a living out of violence and their being bends toward death.
Find someone practiced in manipulating others and note how they seem bent toward distrust.
Find those places where lying is a lifestyle and note how it bends those therein towards falsehood.
Here’s the point: the day in and day out practices of our lives bend us, either towards death or life.
Sin could be described as being bent towards death.
This is the tragedy of Haman’s story.
After a lifetime of manipulating the system and jockeying for power and position and seeking to control others, he carries in his being the shape his life has taken.
It’s so deep in his bones that even when he seeks to take a posture of penance in the end, it is met with suspicion of manipulation. As he is on bended knee, begging for his life, it is twisted into seeming like he is coming onto Esther.
Who knows if his contrition was genuine.
He may not even have known at that point.
That’s what happens when our humanity is bent out of shape by our daily lives.
We become recognized, by others and perhaps even by ourselves, by the way our bodies have been misshaped by moving through the world towards death.
Bending to Life
Salvation is being bent towards life.
Might this be our understanding of sanctification? Jesus bending us towards life.
The daily struggle for most of us is that we are bent in many directions at once. And the drama of salvation, the work of discipleship, is seeking to lean into the way of Jesus and allow him to take away our bent to sinning.
This is the work of daily prayer…paying attention to the ways in which the Spirit is shaping us away from death and bending us towards life.
This is the work of daily gratitude…being bent from discontent and towards grace.
This is the work of holy friendship…being bent away from isolation and towards communion.
By God’s grace, we are being incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation. That is, our bodies are being called to practice being bent toward life.
May our churches embody these practices.
May God’s grace take away our bent to sinning, and may we find ourselves lost in wonder, love and praise.
- What practices are alive in your community that are bending people towards death? How can you be healed from these practices?
- What practices are alive in your community that are bending people towards communion? How can you celebrate these practices?