Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Devotional for the Fourteenth Day of Lent

Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. Thus says the Lord:
What wrong did your ancestors find in me
that they went far from me,
and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves? 
They did not say, “Where is the Lord . . . ?” (Jeremiah 2:4-6a)

Then he came again to Cana in Galilee where he had changed the water into wine. Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.’ The official said to him, ‘Sir, come down before my little boy dies.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your son will live.’ The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. (John 4:46-50)

Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us. (Psalm 62:8)

It has been said that people become like the things they worship. The prophet Isaiah wrote a satire about a man who cuts a piece of wood, uses half of it to make a fire to cook his food, and then fashions the other half into an idol that he bows down to worship. The man is portrayed as an idiot who acts like his head is made out of wood, just like his idol.

The prophet Jeremiah warns the people of Israel about their family legacy in forgetting about God and turning to idols. They became worthless, just like the objects of their worship. It’s an awful thing to be judged as having no worth, but by tethering their lives to things that don’t matter at all, the people began to reflect the images of their gods of choice.

The man who came to Jesus was a royal official, so he was very likely a person of prominence and means. If his son was ill, he would have undoubtedly sought out and paid for medical care, which appeared to have little effect. So he came to Jesus in the midst of a crowd who had seen Jesus do miraculous things, and they celebrated him like he was a rock star. The man was desperate and came to Jesus for help. Once Jesus assured the man that his son would live, the man “believed the word that Jesus spoke” and put himself into gear, heading home to see what had happened. We find out later that the son was indeed healed and restored to his father.

We westerners put a lot of trust in our brains. We are children of the Enlightenment and we find it easy to locate our identities in what we think. When we say we “believe” something, we usually mean we’ve come to a conclusion about the validity of something. So when we claim to believe in Jesus, we often mean that we’ve concluded certain things about faith that puts us in the Christian camp. For too many of us, it also means that, once having drawn such mental conclusions, we can move on with our lives, trusting in whatever suits us and identifying our lives with the other objects of our worship.

The man who believed Jesus about the healing of the son did more than give mental assent to Jesus’ healing powers. He trusted that Jesus was telling him the truth (in the Greek of the New Testament, the word for believe is the same word for trust) and went to receive his son. Belief can allow us to offer a nod to creeds and doctrines; trust, however, is about relationship. To believe in Jesus is not in the same category as believing in ghosts or believing that there are aliens in Roswell. To believe in Jesus is to trust the living Son of God to be real and present in human life right now.

When the psalmist says that God is a refuge for his people, he means that God offers the only safe place that is real. The other so-called safety zones of our lives—our money, our status, our careers, and so on—are temporary at best and are dehumanizing as definers of our worth.

So we pour out our hearts. We can do that with the One we trust.

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