The Next Right Thing
Scripture Reflection and Daily Prayer: Thursday, April 23, 2020
In the name of the Father, and of the ☩ Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
O God, make speed to save us;
O Lord, make haste to help us.
Morning Psalm- 47:5-7
5 God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet. 6 Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. 7 For God is the king of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm.
1 Peter 2:11-17
11Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul. 12Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge. 13For the Lord's sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, 14or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. 15For it is God's will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. 16As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. 17Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
(Disclaimer: Story about cute kid at the end.)
I love First Peter’s advice here which presents a paradox. He tells the church, “live as free people,” even though they are “aliens and exiles.”
The guidance of First Peter is helpful to us as we struggle to live as free people, while in our homes, looking for direction from leaders, some of whom we know we cannot trust to have our wellbeing in mind. It’s hard to know what to do when there seems to be so much wrong. First Peter’s community also wrestled with this, as outsiders and under persecution.
We aren’t the first batch of Christians to struggle with the advice, “honor the emperor.” There is danger in applying this edict across the board, especially in a situation where said emperor “has no clothes.”
First Peter is not saying we are to go along with the ignorance we see around us in order to honor the government. Our own Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote very presciently about the dangers of stupidity in his, “Letters and Papers from Prison.” Bonhoeffer said, “The stupid man is under a spell…[And] having become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil.” So, what’s our way forward if we want to honor God while resisting the evil enabled by stupidity?
Do the next right thing.
“15For it is God's will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish.”
First Peter is certainly not telling us to honor evil or to be stupid if that’s the way the emperor’s wind is blowing, he’s saying our calling as Christians is to not get bogged down in the ends and out of “every human institution.” Rather, live as we know Jesus would have us live, in spite of the ever-changing winds of human folly. We are to do what Jesus showed us and what we know to be right. We are freed by Christ to do what is right, to love and serve God and neighbor undeterred and unafraid. The light of Jesus is shining on us, lighting our way. The responsibility that comes with our freedom is to take the light that Jesus gives us, and let it shine in the world, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…” so others may find the way, following our lead.
God’s job is the salvation of the world, ours is to live in the world as if we believed that salvation already extended to everyone, including a naked emperor, and do what is right, honoring every life, loving this family of faith. Don’t get lost in the madness of the news stream and every overwhelming trouble of the world, rather, simply do what God has shown you is right in this moment. Love.
Among my quarantine companions is a five-year-old-girl. That means that the “Frozen” movies are a constant companion. Yesterday, Lydia Grace prevailed upon me to sit down with her and watch “Frozen II.” Even though she’s seen it a few times already, she watched it on the edge of her seat and so I joined her in that posture. She urgently described the action on the screen to me, comforting me during scary scenes, giggling through the kissing, interrupting her own breathless descriptions of what was happening in order to quote large portions of the dialogue along with the characters. She knows the movie through and through, which made me particularly happy when I noticed one of the repeated refrains in the movie when the characters Elsa and Anna face a hard choice, or are uncertain or afraid, is, “all one can do is the next right thing.” It's much like what First Peter is telling his community. When Anna is alone in the dark, willing herself to get up and keep moving she sings to herself:
“I won't look too far ahead It's too much for me to take
But break it down to this next breath, this next step This next choice is one that I can make So I'll walk through this night Stumbling blindly toward the light And do the next right thing And, with it done, what comes then?
…do the next right thing."
Our responsibility isn’t to save the world, but with Christ as our guiding light, to simply do the next right thing. God is already ahead of us making the way, making the way forever.
Let us Pray:
Satisfy us with your love in the morning, Ps. 90:14
and we will live this day in joy and praise.
Loving God, as the rising sun chases away the night, so you have scattered the
power of death in the rising of Jesus Christ, and you bring us all blessings in him.
Especially we thank you for:
the community of faith in our church . . .
those with whom we work or share common concerns . . .
the diversity of your children . . .
indications of your love at work in the world . . .
those who work for reconciliation. . . .
People of God, for what else do we give thanks? Add your own prayers of thanksgiving.
Mighty God, with the dawn of your love you reveal your victory over all that would
destroy or harm, and you brighten the lives of all who need you.
Especially we pray for:
families suffering separation . . .
people different from ourselves . . .
those isolated by sickness or sorrow . . .
the victims of violence or warfare . . .
the church in the Pacific region. . . .
And for the family of Ed Sherrick, Mary, Sharon Herrold, Duana, those who suffer PTSD, Brenda and Cliff, Bob, Rochelle, Karen and Steve, Barb and Butch, Sharron Blezard, Marcia, John and Susan, Rose, Phil and Alice, Stanley Hope, Jake, John, Julie, the nurses of our Medical Outreach Clinic and…
People of God, for what else do we pray? Add your own prayers.
you are the well-spring of life.
Pour into our hearts the living water of your grace,
that we may be refreshed to live this day in joy,
confident of your presence
and empowered by your peace,
in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
“God the Father, ☩ Son, and Holy Spirit watch over us. Amen.”