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.
We were created to be independent and capable. When God envisioned humanity, humans were intended to be on a level in which a compatible relationship could be established between God and humanity. There is a built-in dependency between us and our Creator. Humans have attempted to live independent of God since shortly after creation. Each attempt results in some level of failure. When we break down and admit our need for the Lord, we do not find rejection but forgiveness and the grace of love.
Chris Tomlin puts our prayer into words and music…
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.
Embarking on a journey requires planning and preparation. Packing all that you need while you are away must be thought out, taking into account weather, planned activities, and the amount of space for items, lest you forget something. Lately, if I am driving a long distance for my journey, I try to plan some snacks to have in the car to help me stay energized. When you have to make a trip in haste, you do not have time for all this planning and preparation. The passage for today is one of those unplanned and hasty trips.
Elijah, a prophet of God, has been in a tussling match with King Ahab’s wife, Jezebel. He has been holding Ahab accountable for the sins which he and Jezebel continue to commit. Elijah has just defeated the prophets of Jezebel’s religion. When Jezebel learns of this defeat through her husband, she declares that she will have Elijah killed. Since she has already had other prophets of God assassinated, Elijah has little doubt that this would be his fate as well so he flees. In his hasty flight, Elijah has no time to prepare. He has no plans for lodging, no plans for food on the journey, and no idea what he would do next. He just leaves as quickly as possible. God, however, does have a plan for Elizak and provides all the prophet’s needs in food, shelter, and rest.
There are times when we are required to act quickly and without an opportunity to plan everything out. God may be calling us into action immediately, or we may feel threatened so we act upon our fear. Either way, we have a Lord who never abandons us. God will provide for our immediate needs. Trusting in the provisions of God, we are able to make whatever journey may be necessary.
Getting the opportunity to wish for absolutely anything with the certainty it will be granted sounds phenomenal. We have all heard the story of Aladdin and the magic lamp. Each of us has desired to be Aladdin who is given the three wishes by the genie in the lamp. Some of us grew up watching the original, or syndicated reruns, of the television show, Bewitched, and wished we had the powers of Samantha. With just a twitch of our nose, we could have anything we desired. Oh, what it might be like to have anything we wanted.
Today we read about King Solomon, the son of David. Like his father, Solomon was not perfect. Right before the passage for today, we find out that Solomon is still worshiping at the high places of his Egyptian wife’s religion. Yet, like David, Solomon hos found favor with God. So God asks Solomon what it is that God could grant for him. Solomon asks for the wisdom to govern the Hebrew people who God has entrusted to him. Solomon’s request is as much for the Hebrew people as it is for himself. Because of this unselfish request, God gives Solomon the wisdom, as well as, all the benefits for himself which Solomon did not request.
This story has a lesson for us in it. When we come before God with our requests, we should ask ourselves the focus of our request. Are we seeking things which will only be a benefit for us? Do the petitions we make to the Lord serve others as well? This story seems to indicate that the Lord ispleased when we ask for that which will benefit others. In so doing, we may discover that we receive not only what we ask for but the positive aspects which we did not request.
Remember back in elementary school when at recess or physical education class teams were chosen to play kickball or some other game? My memories of those times are not very positive. I have not been athletically inclined in my life nor am I overly coordinated so I usually was at the end of the choosing. There were other areas of life where I was on the chosen list but athletics was not the list for me. There is one very important list which includes almost every person, only if a person opts not to be on the list is her/his name omitted. The list to which I am referring is God’s list of people.
In the letter to the believers in Colossae, there is a reminder that they (and us) are God’s chosen people. Then instruction is given on how the chosen people are to act and interact. Qualities which describe such people are listed. Forgiveness and love are paramount among the chosen ones of the Lord.
Every day there is opportunity to put into practice the qualities and behaviors found in our reading. There are times when we can demonstrate compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. This can require a lot of effort. Practice is a good word to describe this effort because before these become natural, we must work on them over and over. Forgiveness is an action which is not optional for God’s people because of the magnitude of forgiveness we have received from our Lord. Love is the hallmark of believers for all these attitudes and behaviors are centered in love. God’s love for us is why we have been chosen by God and the basis for the endless forgiveness.
A few months ago we moved to a new state, a new city, a new neighborhood, and a new house. We are fortunate to live in a quiet portion of our city. The sounds which usually can be heard after dinner are the sounds of nature. Our new house has a spacious deck on the back for which we recently purchased some new outdoor furniture. This has led to a new, favorite pastime of sitting on our deck quietly while listening to the sounds of nature. Our neighborhood is full of trees so the sounds of birds, later to be joined by sounds of frogs, make a beautiful melody. Nature reminds us of the wonder and power of the Lord.
In a song of praise to God, the writer of this psalm proclaims the greatness of the Lord demonstrated in nature. The proclamation which nature makes is not by using flowing words but instead through the greatness of its display. The wonder of the cycles of nature, the vastness of the sky, and the feelings generated in the life of the observer, puts before us the magnificence of the One who created and maintains all of nature.
As I sit on my deck in the evening, experiencing the sights, sounds, and smells of God’s creation around me, awe overwhelms me. My soul joins in the chorus of praise sung by nature and the psalmist. It is important for each of us to take the time to truly experience the wonderment of what the Lord has created. Soon, you will be moved to join in the praise song for our God.
What are some things in life which seem unimaginable? As time moves forward, things which humans have thought impossible have become possible. History records an endless number of situations when humans have declared something impossible which today we take for granted. Human airflight, speaking to someone over five thousand miles away instantly, living in space, are just a few examples. While some feats take many years to become possible, we are witness to the impossible becoming reality. Yet even as far as humanity has come (and will go), humanity still has limits.
At the end of a prayer which Paul is writing for the believers in Ephesus, we read a benediction in today’s verses. Paul is speaking of God’s ability to do more than we even ask or can imagine. Notice that this great power of God is in conjunction with us. Paul says that this power to do the unimaginable works in us, or through us. Because of God’s choice to work through us, Paul goes on to say glory should be given in the church and in Christ.
Paul places perspective on the achievements of humanity. The advancements which have been made through discoveries, inventions, and work of humans are possible through the power of God. What humanity imagines into reality is God working through us. Because of God providing the power in abilities, skills, imagination, challenges, and wisdom, the impossible of yesterday becomes possible today. This truth is reason enough to give God the glory.
There are concepts which in their complexity can be difficult to understand. When we are younger, teachers take complicated concepts and break them down so we might understand the parts before understanding the whole. Teachers also learn that a student may need a concept explained in a different way in order to gain understanding. As a wonderful teacher, Jesus understood this. Jesus used parables, or storytelling, to communicate complicated messages in an understandable way.
A parable which Jesus told was about a vineyard owner and the tenants who worked his vineyard. The owner sent some servants and his son at harvest time to collect some of the harvest. As each one was sent, the tenants beat them, put them back with nothing, and even killed some of them including his son. The owner came himself, killed the tenants, and recruited new tenants.
This story was Jesus’s attempt to explain God’s viewpoint of how the Hebrew people have behaved and the coming response. All the prophets, angels and messengers had come to the people to give God’s message and bring the people back in relationship with God. The people rejected and even killed these servants of the Lord. Not wanting to give up on the people, God sends the Son. At some point, after endless rejection, God will let the people go to their own destruction and welcome in those who have chosen a relationship with the Lord.
The proverbial ball is always in our court. God will never reject any one of us. We will be sent messenger after messenger who invites us to share in the final harvest. Jesus came so even if we choose to reject God’s servants, we are given the ultimate way back to God. However, it remains our choice whether to accept or reject those who God has sent.