In theater, setting the stage is one of the most important tasks. It lays the foundation for the characters to move, plots to develop, and the entire scene to be set in the audience’s mind.
Today in scripture we see a lot of setting the stage.
Paul speaks about the purpose of prayer, and in Matthew Jesus lays a foundation of what our new faith is to look like.
The Romans passage captures my imagination, with Paul explaining the purpose of prayer and the concepts of “foreknew” and “predestined,” not as simply prior action, but as God acting in eternity and shoring up the kingdom of heaven.
Of course this ol Presbyterian is gonna be interested when the word predestined shows up!
Those us of predestined can rest in God’s grace, because we have also been called, justified, and glorified. For those of you really interested in the minutia of theological discourse, this becomes the heart of Karl Barth’s understanding of sanctification, which is closely linked with justification. It is a phenomenal read if you love that kind of stuff.
The passage in Matthew is the setting of the stage for Jesus to denounce the Scribes and Pharisees.
In many ways, today’s readings are dense and rich in meaning and depth. In one sense they are difficult. But it is a reminder to me that living into Scripture is not something one does overnight, but requires a lifetime of study and reflection. I am constantly reminded, through the process of writing Morning Reflections, how little I know. It is a humbling process. But nevertheless, it is a rich, rewarding experience and feels a lot like taking my daily vitamins. And just like vitamins, it is the long term effects that are often most important.
And so today we set the stage. We wait for the story to develop. In the meantime, we focus on the tasks at hand, and pray to God that he will enrich our prayer and help us focus on the building blocks of our faith.