There is a saying which gets spoken often that goes like this, “There is no going back home.” In many situations, this saying is applicable. A desire to return to some point in our lives has crept into almost everyone’s thoughts. We can become nostalgic for a different time in our lives which our memories fool us into thinking was easier and problem-free. However, if we are to honestly to recall exactly what our views were at the specific time, we would have to admit that even then we longed for something else, something better and problem-free. So to some degree, the saying is true that we cannot go back, even if we could, it would not be the same. We really would not want it to be the same.
There is an exception of sorts to what I just presented to you. The exception has to do with reconciliation and restored relations. Jesus presents this exception in the form of a story about a father and his two sons. The story’s focus character is the man’s youngest son who longs for something better. The son takes his future inheritance and hits the road in search of adventure, only to find himself destitute and longing to go back home. When he finally gets the courage to return, the son fully reconciles with his father and the relationship is completely restored.
Jesus tells this story to give us understanding into the promise of reconciliation and restoration offered by God. With the Father, we are more than able to go back home. Not only is the ability made possible by the Lord, it is greatly desired by God. The chance to reconcile our relation with God is one of the greatest signs of love given to us. This opportunity is available as many times as we need it.
The other son in Jesus’s story also provides an important lesson for us. Even though the father was ready to, and did, reconcile with his youngest son, the older brother responded the opposite way. How many times do we reject the offer of reconciliation from others? Jesus communicated here the need for us to always work for reconciliation with one another.
As humans, the scope of our understanding is finite. It is true that with age we gain increased understanding. Yet even at the most advanced age, we are limited. Adults often tell children that right now something may not make sense but with time they will understand. The struggle is often having the patience to wait. This struggle is not only for children but for adults as well.
We witness Jesus telling the disciples that they will have to wait for understanding. In all likelihood this could be applied to all of Jesus’s ministry and teaching while he was alive. Many times the followers struggled to understand. This specific time was at the start of the feast before Passover. By the end of the night the disciples would be even more confused as Jesus is arrested in the Mount of Olives. At the moment in our passage, Jesus has taken the role of the lowliest servant and began to wash the feet of the disciples. Peter begins to protect with a question about Jesus washing his feet. Jesus responds to Peter, and the confusion of all the disciples, by acknowledging that this may not make sense now but with time it will.
As believers there are situations when we witness aspects of life and are confused. Where is the Lord in this situation? How does this connect to the Lord’s purpose? How should I understand this in light of my belief in Jesus Christ? As Peter and the disciples were told on that night, we receive the same instruction from the Lord. Right now we lack understanding but there will be a time when we will understand. The time may be during our earthly life, or it may not be until we have crossed into our spiritual existence. Our challenge is to be patient and trust the Lord to make sense of it all.
I am not one who has done a lot of sailing or spent much time on a boat. A pontoon or speed boat on a lake is the majority of my experience. I also spent one afternoon during college on a sailboat with a friend. Despite my level of inexperience, I do understand the purpose of and the value for an anchor on a boat.
Anchors are important not only for individuals on boats but also for times in life. While life’s anchors are not physical in nature, they serve the same purpose of keeping one steadfast as the waves of life batters us.
The most reliable life anchor any of us can have is found in our Lord. Ray Boltz wrote a song about the value of this life anchor.
This week has made many of us feel as if we have been battered by a storm. The senseless killing of children in Texas which came so closely after the horrific murders of people in Buffalo, make us filled with questions, sadness, and anxiety. These events are a continuing trend in our nation. Add to this the exhaustion brought upon us by the pandemic and months of war in Ukraine. All of these situations combine to make us feel like we are in the midst of a never ending storm. How can we continue to stand?
Jesus has an answer to that question. He tells the crowd listening to him that they are to be like the wise person who built a house on rock. The rock on which we are to build our house is Jesus Christ and his teachings. Jesus taught that love is the answer to combat evil and sin. If we build our lives on the love found in Jesus’s words, we will overcome the sin within us and in the world around us.
Go to the teachings of Jesus and listen. Read the two chapters preceding this one in Matthew’s gospel. Then strive everyday to build your life upon Jesus’s words found in these three chapters.
The news from Texas yesterday is almost impossible to comprehend. Thinking about what type of response we believers in Christ might make, a great number of words from Scripture came to mind. However, instead of seeking answers and responses right now, I decided it is best to sit awhile in our grief. There will be time to seek answers and proper responses as led by the Spirit. So today, read of the grief Jeremiah lifts up and be surrounded by the shared grief knowing nineteen children and three adults were killed in an act of human violence. I am confident our Lord is shedding tears as well.
Advice on how to live life seems to come from a variety of sources on a regular basis. Advertisers are always telling us what to eat, what to wear, where to live, how to spend our time, and just about every other detail you can imagine. We receive advice from family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and even strangers on the internet. Advice is easily given but often goes unheeded. Some advice falls under the category of “easier said than done.”
The writing which we read today in Scripture definitely is intended to be advice for believers to follow within the faith community. This advice seems to easily fit in the category mentioned above. It makes sense and on the surface appears to be easily followed. However, the truth, which everyone knows, is that this advice is much more difficult to put into practice than it is to hear it. As difficult as practicing this may be, and as frequently as we fail to consistently live it out, we are to continue to strive to follow it. By following this advice, we are living into the example of Jesus Christ.
Reread this passage. You may even choose to write it down and place it where you see it every morning. Then commit yourself to putting it into practice every day whether you are always successful or not.
Conflict appears to be endless in today’s world. We are in a time when violence appears to be the preferred response in many circumstances. Wisdom is not often demonstrated. The world searches for peace and the wisdom which will bring it in the midst of conflict.
The writer of James tells us there are two kinds of wisdom. There is an earthly wisdom which is focused on the self and selfish gains. The other wisdom is described as one of humility, pure, peace-loving, considerate, merciful, and with a focus upon others. This wisdom is centered in the spiritual realm of the Lord.
As we seek answers for our times, we should seek the spiritual wisdom of the Lord. Finding such wisdom can be a challenge. Such wisdom will be demonstrated in how a person lives their life. Seeking a person who demonstrates the traits which we see listed in the latter portion of the passage should be our goal. We should also strive to demonstrate this wisdom ourselves.
How do you make sure that you remember important things? I am a person who is very grateful for technology serving as a memory aid. Alexa helps me keep track of my various shopping lists. Google Calendar syncs with all my electronic devices and laptop so that I remember appointments, birthdays, and anniversaries. Microsoft To Do is on all my electronic devices to assist me in remembering the various tasks which I have each day. While the system is not perfect, i.e., I have to remember to add things to these various platforms, I would be much less successful in remembering things without this technology.
God wants the Israelites to remember the commands, laws, and decrees which they have been given. Like the various methods I use to remember important details, God gives the Israelites a variety of ways to remember. God instructs the people to integrate these guides into every aspect of their lives. They are to talk about them, create visual reminders, and incorporate them into their daily activities.
As the Israelites were instructed to remember God’s guidance, so we too are instructed. The teachings passed down to us through the prophets, Scripture writers, Apostles, faith leaders, and especially Jesus, should infiltrate every aspect of our lives. We should talk regularly about these teachings with our family and fellow believers. We should think about them throughout our daily activities. We should place reminders where we see them on a regular basis. This is how we impress them upon our hearts as God instructed the Israelites to do.
Yesterday I provided my readers with a series of questions to respond to after reading this passage. I benefited from the responses which I received. My promise yesterday was that I would write a response today.
This passage allows us to be insiders to a conversation Jesus is having with his disciples prior to his death and resurrection. He is trying to prepare them for what will come soon and how they are to respond. This conversation provides a core for us as we strive to live life post Jesus’s death and resurrection as well.
As I look at this passage, I have two images which emerge for me. The first image is one of a package completely wrapped in a red cellophane. The second image is one of dough with red food coloring flowing completely through it. Both images involve the color red because it is the color that for me is connected with love. Love is the main point of what Jesus says here. A love which surrounds and is fully integrated in a person’s life.
A friend of Jesus is anyone who is surrounded by and infused with the love belonging to the Lord. Since this person lives all of life in Jesus’s love, this love flows naturally out to others. Jesus chose us to be the recipients, receptacles, and bearers of love. Because this love became a part of who we are, we naturally share it with others. While we continue to be imperfect in consistently sharing love, we see here that the Lord desires us to continue in the effort.
We also see Jesus makes a connection between joy and love. Joy and love are expressions and experiences of the soul. Joy is different from happiness. Happiness is fleeting and is a reaction to events around us. Love can be an emotion which is also fleeting but the love Jesus references here is lasting as described above. When thus love envelopes us and penetrates us, as Jesus’s love does, it enhances and partners with the joy of our soul.
All of who Jesus is and does finds its core in love. Jesus is telling his disciples, and us, that anyone who is a friend of the Lord has love as their core. When love is your core, your life expresses it and your joy is complete.
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
(Matthew 28:20b, NIV)
The writer of Matthew’s gospel account ends with the words above. It is part of the scene during Jesus’s physical leaving. Jesus has just given all his followers their marching orders and he tells t hem this. This was a comfort at that time. Thesewords can be a comfort to each of us as well.
The difficulty can be to remember this promise when life brings on challenges. We can feel alone as we try to navigate the brokenness of our world and our lives. It is in the brokenness where we will find Jesus.