“He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow.”Deuteronomy 10:18
For the past couple years my grandmother has been going through her things and offering sentimental items to any grandkid that wants them. Knowing my love for history and being a pastor she has passed on a number of daily devotionals from my Great Grandpa Weller (b. 1889). The verse I shared above comes from the month of October in one such devotional. The teeny tiny book measures about 2 inches by 2 ½ inches with a copyright date of 1900. The inside cover is inscribed with “Christmas, 1904.” I of course never knew my Great Grandfather, but holding this teeny tiny book does provide a link, a connection, a bond to his resurrected life with God.
I imagine what this verse may have meant to him. As the maple and oak leaves changed outside his window just like mine, what words of comfort was God speaking to him that day? How did he think about the troubles of society with God’s will for a more loving and just world?
There has been a lot of biblical scholarship since this translation of the bible. Archaeologists have uncovered new scrolls. Historians know more about the context of biblical regions and peoples. Linguists have helped us better understand ancient languages in context. The CEB will translate the entire verse, “God enacts justice for orphans and widows, and God loves immigrants, giving them food and clothing.” Sometimes we act like this justice loving, boundary crossing, fierce loving God is new or liberal or progressive or just a fad, but it’s not. It is the very story of God. It is who God was in Deuteronomy. It was who God was on Christmas 1904, and so is today.
Coming from an immigrant family, and at a time in history when immigrants poured through Ellis Island and Angel Island, I wonder if this text challenged him or comforted him? Did it cause him to look through the eyes of God at those who had no social safety net with compassion and concern or did he read these words to simply check a box that told him he was a good Christian if he just read it?
These are questions with no answers, but I would like to think that he allowed these words to enter his theological imagination. I like to imagine he did not view God as distant but with him, transforming him to follow in God’s way the best he could.
All Saints day will be on October 30th. We will not only read the names of those we lost in body this year, but we will witness the divine spark God placed within them and the ways it shone on the world. It may seem small, but it does provide a link, a connection, a bond of sorts, knowing that they are home with God, and because God has made a home in each of us we are still able to connect with and feel their presence with us.
Along with names, we invite you to share a picture that goes with that name. During worship we will display their picture when their name is read and we light a candle. The names you submit do not need to be members of the Grace UCC, but anyone you would like to lift up. Please send pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blessings for your journey,
Rev. Keith McDevitt