The four Gospels do not contradict each other, but John’s Gospel in particular gives a unique perspective on the life and ministry of Jesus. As a disciple and apostle, John the author had a mandate to testify to what he had seen and heard. In fact, the essential requirement for apostleship was being an eyewitness to Jesus’s ministry. But we have the same calling to be a witness and the same opportunity to be a unique voice offering something special that no one else can offer.
When I was a young child, I suffered from terrible nightmares. Every couple of months, I’d cry out in my sleep. My parents would rush in to comfort me, and I’d begin to calm down. Usually, at this point, my dad would return to bed and my mother would rock me to sleep. I can vividly remember the feeling of being safe in her arms, protected from the terrors that had filled my sleep. Psalm 131 uses such an image to convey what it’s like to have a calm and quiet soul.
When I was sixteen, my friends assumed I was good at fixing cars. It seemed reasonable. I’d been around cars for most of my life. But what my friends failed to consider was that in the wrecking yard, the valued skill wasn’t fixing cars but dismantling them. Fixing was what our customers did. So I could rip parts out of a car pretty well . . . and then I could stare at the pile of parts and wonder how to put everything back together.
When I was in elementary school, my mom arrived to pick me up in a silver Rolls Royce. Every kid ogled the long, elegant swoop of fender, flaring slightly above the back wheel. The impossibly long hood. The flying-lady hood ornament. Giving one last look to those still waiting in the carpool line, I opened the heavy, perfectly machined door and entered the spacious back seat. There was just one catch: Our wrecking-yard Rolls, thanks to Dad, was running on a wrecking-yard Chevrolet engine.
Leaders are constantly tempted to focus on people higher up the food chain. Courting the influential and powerful seems like the best decision, since they are the ones who can provide the greatest benefit in return. Life’s funny, though, and it’s often the characters on the margins who end up changing our story the most. Growing up in the junkyard I knew a lot of . . . let’s call them “interesting” characters. So I can sorta understand Rahab, a resident of Jericho we read about in Joshua 2 and 6.
It’s common in the business world to hear about aiming high. Usually that’s just another way of saying we should keep moving ahead, setting goals for ourselves and then meeting those goals. However, rarely does aiming high involve a significant risk. Instead, it tends to be incremental. It’s like looking at the top of a staircase and saying you’re “aiming high”—then getting there one step at a time. But here’s a story from scripture that puts “aim high” in a new light.
All too often, prayer has been exclusively viewed as a time of petitioning. However, the truth is that petitions are an aspect of prayer, not the only expression. Instead of dialoging with God, some of us are guilty of using prayer to only gripe and ask. We rattle off our lists of wants and desires, complain about the difficulties of life, slap an “amen” at the end and go on about our day. But Jesus has shown us a different way through this template in Matthew 6.
Numbering comes naturally to human beings. It’s hard to imagine human society functioning without our ability to keep count… We’ve invented previously unimaginable technologies to expedite the process. It’s led to the ability to quickly calculate all sorts of measures for all manner of things. On the downside, this has enabled us to generate volumes of data which may be of little value. Today’s text reminds us that this need not be so. Counting and wisdom can go together. But how do we learn to count well as human beings?
The first line of Psalm 130 is one of the most frequently quoted of the Psalms: “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD” (130:1, KJV). Why is this simple line so commonly used in prayers, hymns, and spiritual songs? Because it expresses what it’s like to pray when we’re facing overwhelming challenges and hardships. Our hearts resonate with the psalmist when we pray not with joyful praise or quiet calm but with urgent desperation.
According to Ephesians 4:15, it is through “speaking the truth in love” that we will grow up as Christians. In recent reflections, we have seen that “in love” means, in part, that we speak the truth for the benefit of others. We seek to serve people through our speaking, to love them as Christ has loved us. But there is another dimension to “in love” that we might easily overlook. For Paul, love is not an abstract concept, an ideal, or a feeling. It is a fact of God’s own nature.