Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Help Me, God, Not to Forget You!

This is the journal entry for my quiet time with God this morning. To see how I approach quiet time, which I learned from the Navigators, see here.

Look: “And he said to them, ‘Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?’ And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.” (Luke 2:49-50, ESV)

When Jesus was twelve, He went with His extended family from Nazareth to Jerusalem for the Passover. This was a yearly pilgrimage.

The Passover ended, the Nazareth contingent packed up and headed for home. But Mary and Joseph, having assumed that Jesus was with other members of their family, discovered one day into the trip that Jesus wasn’t among them. The went back to Jerusalem, where they spent three days looking before they stumbled on Him in the temple.

There’s a note of chastisement in Mary’s words to Jesus at the moment she and Joseph find Jesus: “Son, why have you treated us so? [she asks] Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” (Luke 2:48)

Mary’s concern is understandable. But her concern for Jesus quickly gives way to concern for herself (and for Joseph). Jesus, she says, has caused the two of them “great distress.”

Jesus’ response foreshadows the one He would have to the distress the disciples exhibited when they were caught in a storm on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus asleep in the stern: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” He asks the fishermen. (Mark 4:40)

The twelve-year-old Jesus is mystified that Mary and Joseph would have spent so much time frantically looking for Him when it should have been obvious to them where He would be: in His Father’s house, the house of God the Father.

But it wasn’t obvious to Mary and Joseph: “And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.”

I read those words and am tempted to laugh at Joseph and Mary. I mean, they were both told fairly emphatically by the witness of angels and circumstances and the Word of Old Testament Scripture that their Child wasn’t really their Child: He was God in the flesh, the Messiah, the Christ.

Yet, they seem to have completely forgotten Who Jesus was or their role in the drama of God saving all who trust in Jesus as their Savior and King. Mary had once exalted God for regarding her as worthy to play her small part in God’s salvation plan, bearing and nurturing from infancy God the Son as He made His journey from manger to cross to empty tomb (Luke 1:46-55).

But, in the course of twelve years, she seems to have come to see Jesus as her kid, like all the other children to whom she’d given birth. The others came about by the usual means. But this Child, she seems to have forgotten, was conceived in her womb by the Holy Spirit before she had ever had sex.

Listen: When you get involved in everyday life, it gets easy to forget God.

We take our blessings for granted.

We take our role in God’s plans and God’s kingdom for granted.

We turn ourselves into the subjects of our lives’ stories, forgetting that we’re objects loved by the One Who gives us life, gives us life made eternally new and makes this earthly life worth living.

We get caught up in ourselves and our daily to-do lists.

I find myself easily drifting into this mindset and the resulting behavior all the time.

After I had the heart attack seven years ago, it was clear that God had intervened to spare me.

“You shouldn’t even be here,” more than one cardiac care nurse told me.

“I can’t explain why you had the heart attack and I can’t explain why you survived it,” my able cardiologist told me.

“You must still be here for a reason,” my GP told me.

“Yes,” I thought. “They’re right. I’m just me. But there must be a reason God has spared my life.”

So, I set out to get into the best physical shape of my life. I ate right and lost weight.

I resumed my role as a pastor with a renewed sense of call and devotion to being a faithful minister of Word and Sacrament with a passion for reaching those who don’t know life with God with the good news of eternal renewal and freedom from sin and death for all who believe in the crucified and risen Jesus.

But some days, I forget.

I eat too much.

I eat too much of what I shouldn’t eat.

I fail to pray for or use opportunities to share the gospel with the spiritually disconnected people I encounter every day.

I get lulled into spending less time in God’s Word and less time in prayer in Jesus’ name than I need to if I really want to bear good fruit for the God I know in Jesus, if I want my life to glorify the God Who saved me in a cardiac cath lab and more importantly, saved me on a cross..

I waste minutes and hours and I waste the salvaged body that God has given to me for His purposes, by pursuing trivial ends.

Yet I know for sure that it's only in pursuing God’s purpose for my life that I lead a purposeful existence.

It’s way too easy for me to get distracted, which I’m sure breaks God’s heart and delights the devil.

But God also understands my (our) penchant for forgetfulness about Him. It’s why He commanded ancient Israel to constantly remind themselves of Who they were and Whose they were. Speaking of His Torah, His commands, God told Israel: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-8)

Ancient Israel was told to constantly remind themselves and each other of God’s undeserved grace: how God had made Him His own people, a light to the nations, not because of the people’s goodness, but because of God’s goodness; how God had delivered the people from 430 years of slavery in Egypt not because of their goodness, but because of God’s goodness; how God intended to use His people to bring His saving good news--in Jesus--to all the world; how God stood (and stands) by those who believe when they (we) go through dark, painful, or tragic times; and how God, out of concern for the well-being of His people, had given them the Torah, the law, the way, His commandments, to show them the best way to live their lives in grateful response to His undeserved grace.

The Old Testament shows the sorry history of how ancient Israel forgot God until it lost its land and, once more, became wanderers without a home.  

Respond: Help me, Lord, not to forget. Help me to remember this day how much you love me, how much you have done for me, how much you love all my neighbors, and how you have deputized me as your baptized disciple to share the good news of new life for all who turn from sin and surrender to Jesus.

Give me the chance to share Your gospel with a spiritually disconnected person today.

Help me to take the time to pray for the needs of the whole world and get my focus off of me, onto You and Your purposes.

In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen

[I'm the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

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