Nov. 6, 2022 

I really chose the Second Thessalonians passage from the lectionary as a kind of teaser passage looking towards Advent. -Advent is that time when we prepare for Christmas by thinking again about the longing, and the expectation, of Christ’s return and God’s direct involvement in history. We get bits of that expectation leading up to Advent. Mike alluded to it last week as he quoted from the first chapter of Second
Thessalonians, and this bit of scripture today, written at the end of the first century or the very beginning of the second century, highlights how intense and specific the expectation and longing for God’s intervention was among the early church.

So, just hold that in your mind through the next month or so, we will revisit it’s themes and the questions it raises.

For today, I want to focus on the Psalm.  All the Psalms are part of the worship material of ancient Israel. Some Psalms cry out to God for forgiveness, or for God’s help, some recite the wonder of God’s creation, or God’s gracious acts in the past. All of them lift up awe and wonder as they celebrate God and God’s gracious relationship with God’s people.

I don’t so much want to analyze today’s Psalm as to connect to its feeling of wonder and mystery accompanied by its deep affirmation of God’s care and involvement with us.

I want to do that by simply telling a story that was once told by the Rev. Dr. Fred Craddock at a workshop I attended. He was the highly esteemed professor of preaching at Chandler School of Theology.

He told of going out for a drive on a Sunday afternoon with his family when his kids were small.  Suddenly, his two kids in the back seat start yelling,  “O daddy, stop the car! Stop the car! -There’s a kitten back there on the side of the road!”

Dr. Craddock, who was just Dad to them, said, “Settle down kids. It probably belongs to someone and I’m sure its mother is capable of taking care of it, and cats have a way of finding their way home.”

The kids, of course, were persistent, “But dad, there wasn’t any mother there and it looked real small. I’m sure it going to die if we don’t go back and get it!”

Craddock, trying to be practical said, “Now just relax kids, you don’t know that, and besides we’re just going for a nice quiet ride to look at the scenery and enjoy ourselves.

Kids: “But dad, -We can’t just let it die!”

Finally his wife nudges him and says, “Honey, why don’t you just go back and make sure there’s a mother cat around.”

So he turns the car around and drives back near the spot where the kids saw the kitten. And sure enough, there it is, all alone.

With strict instructions for the kids to wait in the car, He gets out and walks to where the kitten is. It is a scrawny, scraggly looking thing. Dried mucus in the corner of its eyes and obviously full of fleas. It is scared and lost and hostile.

Craddock knows he has no choice but to help it, so he reaches down to gently pick it up. As his hand goes down the kitten begins to hiss & spit. Baring teeth and claw, it slaps out with that little paw and digs those sharp little claws into Craddock’s hand and tries to bite him.  But he finally manages to get the kitten by the scruff of the neck, and with a few words under his breath, brings the kitten back to the car. -The kitten is placed in a cardboard box they had used to carry some sandwiches and soda for the trip. And Craddock admonishes the kids not to touch the little flea bag until they get home and at least clean it up.

When they get home, they manage to give the little thing a flea bath. And the kids give it some warm milk.  They get a bigger box and ask their dad for one of his tee shirts to make it a comfortable bed. In the ensuing days they feed it and take it to the vet and get the appropriate shots.

A few weeks go by and the kitten grows and has the run of the house. One day Craddock comes home and starts to hang up his coat and he feels something rub up against his leg. He looks down and there is the kitten. He reaches down and strokes the kitten. Now instead of hissing and scratching, the kitten arches his back up to receive the caress.

–Is that the same cat?  –The same one that was scared and ready to fight only a few weeks ago?

Well, yes and no. Not the same in the full sense of the word. -It’s not just a matter of getting rid of the fleas and getting plenty of warm milk. We all know there is more to it than that.

Craddock concludes, “Not long ago God reached out his hand to bless me and my family. When he did I looked at his hand; it was covered with scratches….Such is the hand of love.”

God keeps reaching out to us, keeps trying to overcome our fear and our barbed resistance.

It is no coincidence that the word translated “Saved” in the N.T is the same word that is translated “Healed”.  The sense of the word is to be made safe & whole, secure in every aspect of one’s being.

It is precisely that sense of security and well-being that is celebrated by the Psalmist.  The God who has created the grandness of the universe and the world we know, embraces us in the fullness of love.  That God reaches out with hope for us and seeks to give us grace.

What Jesus’ life and death dramatizes is that through the love of God we are made secure, and whole. There is both forgiveness and hope for us.  God has come to us with a gentle hand of love and seeks to bring us home.

As we celebrate the Lord’s Supper today, we rejoice in the affirmation that God’s love is made real for us. God’s love knows no end. –“Neither, height, nor depth, nor any other creature”, as the apostle Paul said, can separate us from that love.

We invite you, come take this supper with us and know the gift of God.

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