It’s Strictly Come Dancing time of the year again. A delightful way to pass a Saturday evening, in my opinion. Yet, however entertaining the dances, at the end of the night, it is actually a competition and scores are given. There is a standard against which points are awarded – or deducted.
This week, we again get a bonus reading. There is a choice of either a reading from the Apocrypha:
Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 35:12-17 (NRSVA)
12 Give to the Most High as he has given to you,
and as generously as you can afford.
13 For the Lord is the one who repays,
and he will repay you sevenfold.
14 Do not offer him a bribe, for he will not accept it;
15 and do not rely on a dishonest sacrifice;
for the Lord is the judge,
and with him there is no partiality.
16 He will not show partiality to the poor;
but he will listen to the prayer of one who is wronged.
17 He will not ignore the supplication of the orphan,
or the widow when she pours out her complaint.
or this one from the standard Old Testament:
Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22 (CEV)
The Lord’s People Pray
7 Our terrible sins may demand
that we be punished.
But if you rescue us, Lord,
everyone will see
how great you are.
8 You’re our only hope;
you alone can save us now.
You help us one day,
but you’re gone the next.
9 Did this disaster
take you by surprise?
Are you a warrior
with your hands tied?
You have chosen us,
and your temple is here.
Don’t abandon us!
The Lord’s Answer
10 My people,
you love to wander away;
you don’t even try
to stay close to me.
So now I will reject you
and punish you for your sins.
I, the Lord, have spoken.
Jeremiah Prays to the Lord
19 Have you rejected Judah, Lord?
Do you hate Jerusalem?
Why did you strike down Judah
with a fatal wound?
We had hoped for peace
and a time of healing,
but all we got was terror.
20 We and our ancestors are guilty
of rebelling against you.
21 If you save us, it will show
how great you are.
Don’t let our enemies
disgrace your temple,
your beautiful throne.
Don’t forget that you promised
to rescue us.
22 Idols can’t send rain,
and showers don’t fall
Only you control the rain,
so we put our trust in you,
the Lord our God.
Both of which bring us to the same place – God’s judgement of us.
We don’t like to think of judgement. We like to think everything will be ok in the end, it won’t be as bad as we think it might be – and after all we’ve done no worse than anyone else.
Yet we will all be judged. Judged by God against his standard. Sirach reminds us that we can’t bribe God. Our life is what it is. Each one of us will have to answer for what we have done, and will be responsible. The measure is given in verses 12 and 13. Have we given as generously as we could? Of our time? Our love? Our welcome? Our skills? As well as our wealth?
God has given everything we have to us. That is the standard.
Judged against that, we all fall short.
Yet Jeremiah realises that God is also the only one who can save us. He is our only hope. The only one in whom we can put our trust.
Returning to Strictly, the judges don’t just give marks, but also (usually) helpful comments, pointers on how to improve, or to make the mark. God has shown us the perfect way to live, but we continue to fail. But we can stand with Jeremiah and say,
You’re our only hope;
you alone can save us now. (v 8)
…and that is where Jesus comes in – God’s rescue plan to save us from ourselves.
So, yes we should consider our lives, be aware of what we have got wrong; but knowing there is nothing we can do about it, we turn and put our hope in God – the only one who can save us.
I am very aware
of what I have got wrong,
when I have wandered away,
and your ways.
I come before you know
only in you do I have any hope.
may I heed your ways