In this passage, God gives us several examples of how he protects us: both in fire and flood. These are two of the most destructive elements on earth, yet God promises to keep us safe from the harm of both the “sweeping waters” and the “flame.” He promises that we will not be overcome, even in the midst of danger. What a mighty God we serve! What a Savior is this!
When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.
This is one of my favorite Gospel Passages. It’s a question that I have often used for meditation both for myself and for classes I have taught to both teens and adults. It’s a question that I think we need to reflect upon often as we can lose sight of the importance of Jesus in our lives. And the answer can change. He might be friend, brother, Lord, Savior, shepherd, leader, companion – or just someone we have heard about. One teen answered the question by saying that Jesus was a nice man. Is that all he is? What about the Son of God – Divine? Does it make a difference in my life if I believe that Jesus is God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity who came to save me from eternal death by his dying on a cross? Does it make a difference in how I live if I believe that this is not the end? This is a time for getting to know him better so that I can also live eternally in heaven with the Father. I know this because of the resurrection. Yes, Jesus can be my friend and companion, but he is so much more than that. By his life, I know how to live. By his dying and rising, I can face my own death and the death of those I love because he has shown me that this is not the end. In this today’s gospel, Jesus tell us that we must pick up our cross and follow him. Are we willing to deny ourselves in order to follow Jesus? What am I being asked to change in my life, right now? I am so glad that we are reminded each we read this question that Jesus asks – not just the disciples – but us as well. Who do I say that Jesus is for me, today?
This is my favorite Proverb. It talks about two things that are so important to following God’s will. Honesty is so necessary in life. The person who lies has two things going against him. The first is kind of obvious. Once you know a person lies or is dishonest in business, how can you trust him or her? Even when the person is telling the truth, you don’t believe it. You wonder if you’re being cheated in business dealings. But there’s another problem for the person himself. The dishonest person can’t trust anyone else either because he or she figures everyone else lies or has an agenda that is out to get him or her. The second half of the proverb concerns balance. How much does any person need? I’m not asking how much a person might want, but need. It’s hard for the rich to realize their dependence on God. This is why Jesus said it was easier for a camel to walk through the eye of the needle than a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. And the very poor can be tempted to steal in order to take care of their families, and thereby break the commandments and offend the God they love. When we think of the early Christian church, they seemed to understand this and they made sure that their goods were distributed so that all had enough, and no one had an excess.
Ecclesiastes is a fun book to read. About the only thing people recognize is in chapter three where we read about a season for everything – a time to live, a time to die, etc. – but we have much to learn from this book. I’m sure you have heard the phrase, “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” This brief passage expresses the same idea. Just like the Israelites made the same mistakes over and over again, so do we. Yes, there are inventions today that we take for granted today that would never have entered into the imagination of peoples of earlier times, but they repeated the cycle of obeying God, enjoying prosperity, forgetting about God, doing their own thing, falling into the hands of the enemy, begging God for forgiveness, promising to do better, being forgiven by God and obeying – for a while, and so it went. How many times do we promise God that we will do better, we will treat people better, we will be more honest in our dealings with others, work better with our communities for justice – if God will just give us what we need now. How long did the promise last once our prayers were answered? We fall into the same cycle as the Israelites, we do the right thing or say the promised prayers, or whatever we promised for a while and then fall into bad habits and wonder what went wrong. Ecclesiastes is a short book, take some time and read it through. There’s a lot to learn here.
Many people do good things. The question here is, why? One summer I worked in the office of a major university where I recorded the donations that came in on cards with the name of the donor on them. I came across many names of prominent people who were quite familiar to me, but there was a notation on the top of many of those cards that said “anonymous.” Many of these people actually had two cards, one for the public and the other not. The public one was for far less money. They wanted to support the college, but didn’t want credit for their generosity. Obviously, people will be rewarded here for a generosity of spirit, they will be known for performing acts of heroism. We know the names of people who have worked to spread the gospel message and those who work tirelessly for justice. This does not take away from their sacrifice. But, there also are people who want to be known for their good acts and it is these that Jesus warns about. It is one thing for people to come to know the goodness of others; it is another for that person to call attention to what they are doing for their own glory. Do we act because as followers of Christ we are called to do what we do? Or, do we want attention?