Throughout generations there have always been times of uncertainty. Our world has consistently been in cycles of calm and chaos. Within each person’s own life, this uncertainty, calm and chaos occurs at a micro level which mimics the reality of the world. Above all of this exists the One who can calm our troubled lives. This One has the power to settle even the greatest chaos. What is even more amazing is that the One with such power, who has always been and is above all things, has each one of us on the mind and in the heart all the time. Our Lord even had us in mind when out of love, he placed himself beneath the power of sin and death to destroy it forever.
The verse for today is the answer to the trivia question, “What is the shortest verse in the Bible?” This comes in the midst of Jesus’s arrival to the tomb of his friend, Lazarus. The passage is a bit ambivalent in indicating to us the cause of Jesus’s weeping. Was the cause the weeping of Mary? Perhaps the cause was sadness over the death of Lazarus. Another potential cause may be the limited faith he saw in the people, especially Martha. Whatever the cause, the gospel writer tells us two different times that Jesus was moved. This movement of emotions leads Jesus to tears.
This verse is one of the most overlooked, important passages in Scripture. In these two words, we witness the depth of love Jesus has for us. No matter the cause of the tears, Jesus wept because of the sorrow found in the situation. The words also communicate to us that we have a Lord who shares in our grief and has felt our grief. What a comfort this type of intimacy can be as we journey through grief. Our tears are felt and shared in Jesus’s tears.
It is important to remember this verse. We are reminded that our Lord is not distant and unattached from us. No, our Lord is in the very midst of our experience. Our Lord feels for and with us every emotion we experience. What greater example of love can we ever desire? Oh wait, that comes later in the gospel.
There always seems to be some place on the planet where a drought is occurring. The level and the length of time may vary but the need for moisture is noticeable. Most living creatures not adapted for an arid climate need moisture of some form on a regular basis for survival. There are times when I seem to constantly be watering the plants in our landscaping in order to keep everything alive. Science tells us that humans can go through longer periods of time without food than we can without water in some form.
In today’s passage Jesus makes an offer to quench the thirst of anyone who comes to him. This thirst is not a physical one but instead it is a spiritual one. Not only does he promise to meet the spiritual thirst of people, he goes on to say that these individuals would be able to provide for the thirst of others. All of this is possible because the Spirit is the living water for all whose soul is thirsty.
An observant person can see that in the world today there is a great spiritual thirst. Just as the need existed when Jesus shared this invitation for his contemporaries, the people of our time have this great need. Everyone is searching for the one thing which will satisfy their thirst. Many attempt to fill the need with activity and possessions. Others use alcohol or drugs to eliminate the thirst. Still others may seek out cults and ethereal substances to overcome this drought in their lives.
The answer is found in what Jesus says in this passage. The Lord is the only one who can satisfy our thirst. As experienced in the Spirit, the living waters of Christ can flow in us and through us. We do not need to remain parched. When we receive what our soul pants for, we are able to share with others who are also thirsty.
Anticipating something can create anxiety for most of us. This anxiety increases if we do not know the timing of whatever we are anticipating. You might recall as a young child on a road trip the way you nagged your parents with the question, “Are we there yet?” Maybe you had a child who consistently would ask that question, or ask “when?” We think that by knowing the timing, we can manage our anxiety better. Unfortunately, this is seldom the case.
We witness the annely of the disciples in today’s passage. Jesus tells them that the large, revered temple will be reduced to rubble and they want to know when. Jesus warns them that some people will come and try to convince them that the end is near based upon events which they see around them. He tells them not to be fooled because those events are just a part of the status of the world. Jesus says the wickedness in the world will increase but they are to stand strong in love. When others no longer live in and by love, Jesus’s followers are to do the opposite as a testimony of the kingdom in the world.
Since Jesus spoke these words, history has recorded individuals trying to convince people that the end of the world is close at hand. Even today we experience leaders, speakers, preachers, and public figures trying to equate natural or human-created events as signs of the end times. Whether it is true or not, our focus should not be on timing but instead our focus should be on remaining solid in love. Jesus clearly tells us that whatever is occurring around us, whatever wickedness is flooding the world, we are to not acquire a cold heart. The love which we daily receive from the Lord must create our foundation. This love surrounding us is also what we are to be sharing with others.
Leave the timing of the world’s demise to God. Do not let the world’s wickedness steal the love from you. Make love an alternative to the events of the world. By doing so, you will be testifying to the kingdom for others to see, a kingdom which is defined by love.
There exist many times in life when two opposing views present themselves. These views are usually based upon our perception. Is the glass half full, or is it half empty? This question is often quoted to show the concepts of pessimism and optimism. We also eventually realize that life generally resides somewhere in the middle of opposing views.
In the familiar passage for today, we see this challenge of contrasts. The Israelites are seeing their lives solely from the perspective of what they do not have. This perspective leads to complaining and an amnesia in regards to all which the Lord has given them. God shows the people abundance in quail and manna. They had all that they needed, and an abundance remained.
We can often have a perspective like the Israelites. We look at the world around us, complaining about all the things we do not have. Quickly, we can forget what we have thanks to the love, grace, and mercy of our Lord. All of which we truly need is provided by our God, and there is an abundance to share with others. Let each of us strive to achieve an attitude of abundance. If we succeed, it might just lead to less complaining and more gratitude.
Highly successful college basketball coach, John Wooden, is quoted as saying, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” Wooden’s quote reminds us of the importance of always being in a learning mindset. Similarly, Albert Einstein said, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” These successful and brilliant men stress the importance of spending a lifetime learning. They also remind us that no matter how wise or knowledgeable one may appear, there is always something more which can, and should, be learned.
When it comes to our faith and understanding of God, this could not be more true. Our passage for today comes from the book of the Bible named Proverbs. A Google search of the word proverb gives this definition: “a short pithy saying in general use, stating a general truth or piece of advice.” The proverbs found in this book are usually credited to Solomon who was considered to be the wisest king of the Israeli people. It is a collection of sayings and insights intended to assist the people of God in learning who God is, who they are, and how Gad intends them to live. These first verses are encouragement for the people to continue to always be learning.
We have not only the book of Proverbs but the Bible as a whole which invites us to continue to learn about our faith, our God, and ourselves. Add to this the insights provided by mothers and fathers in our faith and we have no limits in what is available to us from which to learn. Fellow believers and faith leaders of today continue to add to the lessons available to us.
None of us know all. Every day we are given the opportunity to learn and grow in our faith. Praise be to our Lord for the people and the learning given to us throughout our lives.
Today in the Western church, we mark this day as a festival day, Sts. Peter and Paul Festival Day. Christians remember two pillars of the early Church. Saint Peter was the apostle which Jesus said the church would be built upon. Saint Paul provided writings which helped the church discover what it meant to live into being the church. Both of these early church leaders looked toward the day when the Kingdom would exist in fullness in the world.
The writer of John’s revelation gives us a glimpse of the scene when Peter and Paul’s expectations come to fruition. The writer speaks of “a new heaven and a new earth.” This is not a redesign of our current temporal existence but instead it is a perfection of everything in and around creation. The imperfect, which came into existence when humanity unlocked sin in the world, is transformed by the full presence of God. The removal of the sea denotes the end of chaos which sin has unleashed on the world. No longer will suffering be a part of creation. A new, perfect way of existing without death is now the reality of the world.
Just as Peter, Paul, and all believers past and present, we eagerly anticipate this perfected reality. We await God dwelling with all of creation absent of any barriers. Our hope resides in the knowledge that in God’s perfect timing this new way of being will be fully experienced.
A saying which one of my instructors stated frequently to my class was, “say what you mean and do what you say.” He was impressing upon us the importance of carrying through on what we say we are going to do. In his view, this was a component of personal integrity. Our integrity is the basis upon which trust can be built.
Jesus wished to impress the importance of following through on expectations when he shared the story of the two sons. In the story one son refuses to do what the father asks but then ends up fulfilling the request. The second son does exactly the opposite. The people before Jesus as he tells the story indicate the first son did what the father wanted. This gives Jesus the opportunity to point out that the Jewish leaders who had questioned his authority are like the second son while those condemned by these leaders were like the first son. They demonstrated integrity and pleased the Father because they repented from their initial error and believed.
This story can be disturbing for any of us who follow the pattern of the second son. How often do we sit in the midst of worship or during our devotion time and commit to the Lord that we are going to follow the Lord’s direction? Maybe we commit to change a behavior or reach out to another in some fashion. Do we carry through with what we say we will do or do we create an excuse not to do so? Are we doing as the Father wants? We must complete what the Lord asks whether we initially accept or reject it. We must do what we say we will do.
Many of us grew up with parents and grandparents who were committed to fairness in gift giving. Whether it was Christmas, birthdays, graduations, or any other opportunity to give a gift, these important people in our lives would strive to make sure that each child or grandchild received equally. As the receiver of the gifts, anytime we failed to see equity in the giving, we may have had a tendency to exclaim that it was unfair.
The fairness of giving and receiving is addressed in the story which Jesus tells in our passage for today. Workers hired early in the day protest the fairness of receiving the same daily wage as those who were hired in the final hours of the work day. The vineyard owner is quick to point out that all the workers received exactly the wage for which they agreed to work. The owner continues by lifting up that it was his money being paid so he had the right to determine the amount as long as it was not lower than the agreed upon amount. Jesus was addressing some of the issues regarding the Jews versus the Gentiles in coming to believe.
This battle of fairness can appear among believers today. People begin believing in the Lord at various points in their lives. There are some who develop a belief early in their lives, maybe because they have been raised in the fellowship of the Church. Others start developing their faith as young adults or even when they reach middle age. Still others may not come to believe until they are facing death. No matter when in life our belief begins, we all receive the fullness of our Lord’s promises fulfilled. In fact we receive this before we even begin to understand our belief. The grace given to all is the Lord’s to give. Instead of crying foul when a new believer accepts the gift of grace and promises fulfilled, we should celebrate.
We live in a world where our accomplishments, status, background, and experiences define who we are in life. The lesson which is frequently taught, starting at a young age, is that we are the only ones who can make a name for ourselves. Each of us has a longing to be known. This longing drives us to expend a lot of energy and resources to establish our name among our peers.
There is one with whom we do not have to make our name known. In fact, none of our accomplishments, efforts, status or anything else can establish our identity with this one being. God knows who we are even better than we know ourselves. Our true identity is found not in ourselves but in the Lord. Because we are known by God, we receive so much love and care from our Lord. When we remember that as a child of God, we are known, loved and have full acceptance, our striving to be known loses some importance.
Casting Crowns have communicated this beautifully in their song, Who Am I. Take time to listen to this song and reflect upon how the Lord has established your name in the Book of Life.