Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Devotional for the Thirty-Seventh Day of Lent

[Jesus] went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. Many came to him, and they were saying, “John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there. (John 10:40-42)

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up,
 my eyes are not raised too high;
 I do not occupy myself with things 
too great and too marvelous for me. 
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
 like a weaned child with its mother;
 my soul is like the weaned child that is with me. (Psalm 131:1-2)

Many years ago we took part in a simple Easter sunrise service on the beach. Only twenty or thirty people showed up (it was, after all, very early and very cold), but the time was rich with worship and sharing. Our pastor offered a short message that was inviting and deep.

As we gathered, I noticed a young man jogging along the shore. I knew him—we were both in the Navy at the time, and I was aware that he lived near the beach. He saw me, stopped, and listened for a while. At the end, he asked me who the guy was doing the speaking. I explained that it was our pastor, and my friend went directly to him to talk. I found out, minutes later, that he prayed to trust his life to Jesus. Over the next year before we got out of the Navy, we had the joy of serving together in that church.

I know that we religious people are good at celebrating things like Christmas and Easter in a big way. Yet both events took place originally at the margins of the human community. King Herod was making a lot of noise while Jesus was quietly born in a stable. Just before Jesus’ resurrection, the drama was found in the city, where the religious leaders conspired to do away with him. John chapter 10 tells of Jesus withdrawing from the accusations of the leaders and heading back across the Jordan, where others came to believe in him. Bigness and excitement do not always translate into environments where God is doing his best work.

In the US, we can move from zero to 60 in a flash, and then stop on a dime and do it all again. We can do things bigger and more exciting than almost anyone, but that doesn’t always translate into the best. When it comes to God’s work among people, much of it happens in quiet, undramatic places: Jesus is born at the margins of the city, and God becomes man; Jesus withdraws to pray, and his disciples become his answer to prayer; Jesus dies in a lonely place outside of Jerusalem, and God absorbs all the power of sin and death; God raises Jesus with only a few terrified Roman guards as witnesses, and sin and death are defanged while all things begin to be made new.

Quiet is a difficult thing for many of us. We have so much informational and entertainment-oriented input that our cultural ADHD is rampant. For us, it is work to find a quiet place. But it may actually be the place where God waits to offer his touch, his word, his healing. The psalmist may have been thinking of lofty things when he referred to “great and marvelous,” but those things for us might be the cacophony that surrounds us on a daily basis. They might only be great and marvelous in their dominance and volume.

I wonder if Jesus still goes to the lonely quiet places that are outside of our daily dramas. I wonder if he goes there to meet us, and then waits, and waits, and waits.

Lord, have mercy.

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