A meditation for March 5, 2017

Guide My Feet
First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn Choir at NYU, 2009

 • Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7  •
 • Psalm 32  •
 • Romans 5:12-19  •
 • Matthew 4:1-11


For the person with a long term illness there are many things that come easy. Denying certain realities, ignoring how our bodies talk to us, walking away from relationships, telling oneself I know better then you know me are only a few. In each case however there appears to be an accusatory notion, a blaming the “victim” mentality, or even just a sense of numbness. Illness has a way of distracting. There are often repetitive words and arguments running through one’s mind. In fact little triggers set off words, feelings, responses inside whoever is involved in working to maintain a relationship with the sick (broken) person and the caring partner (healer).

As I read the scripture for today’s meditation the image of a person laying in a bed came to mind. This person seemed to be either very sound asleep or in a near death state. Within a few minutes of a starting point the person found himself standing in the corner of a hospital room looking at himself still laying in the bed. Sitting next to the bed was his wife. She sat moving slowly forward and backward. It was as if she was hanging on yet letting go at the same time. They were both very young. They were both facing the demise of a marriage, the tearing apart of a relationship that had barely gotten started. A stage had been set and the two of them were about to live out what became a one act play. It is called the life between two people with the hope of becoming one.

Perhaps you understand.

Today’s scripture creates a list of thoughts meaningful to this pilgrimage. In Genesis both Adam and Eve are nurtured to trust God, look to God for the wisdom and understanding youth could only hope for.  Acknowledge there are things that are not necessary to know or experience.

The Psalmist again brings the practical message.  32:1 happy are those who are broken. Whoa! think about that. The “break” can actually be left in the past. Youth is the time to nurture hope, experimentation, bridge building, door testing. It is a time to take some hard punches, to get knocked down with the invitation to get back up. I am convinced the concept of youthfulness is not limited to age. It is about the youthful stage of each venture, each adventure. We each face youthfulness every day.

When we ignore the desire of God, of the one who created each of us we are reminded of how the Psalmist confesses 32:3 my body wasted away. I blew it and what’s worse I ignored not only the signs of my failure but I repeated my mistakes. When will I ever grow. Now maybe you never said that, and chances are I do not want to admit it. But,  32:5 the Psalmist acknowledges that nothing is hidden. What a tragedy. It is as if our history is written in the clouds for everyone to read. There are no secrets. There is no place to hide. The human imprint has patterns and characteristics common among us all. The down side is real.

Again turning to the Psalmist there seems to be one direction. 32:7 preserve me. Words, hopes, a cry, a moment of silent recognition we each have a need. But when the need turns to a want the new life begins. 32:8 instruction becomes a way of life, a youthful start, optimism, eagerness, renewed zeal and one of the greatest motivators of all – gladness! 32:11 be glad.

The Apostle Paul theologizes about all this by tying it to Jesus. It seems  humanity suffers from this immense need to always explain things. By nature humanity grows into being more and more rational, perhaps to our own demise. Yet Paul drops a bomb when he says, STOP. There is no more condemnation. There is a right way. It is found in Jesus.

Matthew is then brought into this thought process. The story is told about Jesus confronting the devil. The devil goes about challenging Jesus one more time. The devil basically asking, “who do you think you are?” “What right do you have galavanting around, strutting, broadcasting WORDS!” He might as well have said don’t you understand people are dying? You go around speaking nonsense as if you can make a difference. Yet holy men, medical men, ointments, medicines are of no use! What a crock. Go ahead make some “magic” bread and see if you can turn this world upside down.

Jesus did not argue. He responded with the beginning of a set of words. In the midst of all the pain, all the brokenness, he simply stated KNOW the word of God. Know, focus not on the temptations that offer temporary results but go to the source. Go to the WORD, get to the bottom of things. That is the starting point.

As if the devil knew he had to dig deeper in his bag of tricks he then questioned Jesus as to who Jesus was. If you are who you are claimed to be then let the angels save you. Seek the miracle! Seek the catastrophic invasion of God! Let God enter history, let God reinvent the way life happens, put your God to the test! No. Jesus rebutted.  This is about a relationship of faith, a relationship based on respect, on love. Without respect, without love there is no meaning, no sense of purpose.

The devil then went to those things which has so easily tripped up many in today’s society. Jesus, look what is behind Curtain number 1, now look behind number 2, now look behind number 3, look don’t forget the grand prize! Nothing will be kept from you!

Some years ago I was asked to visit a counseling session. The person being counseled was concerned. Was this a good counselor? The session began. I listened as the person evaded a question, then another question. The counselor asked why are you doing those things. The person answered it’s as if the devil is telling me to. The counselor then said as bluntly as possible. Tell the devil to leave you alone. The person said I did. He didn’t go away. Perhaps the counselor said you need to say it stronger. I did said the person. Then I suggest you tell the devil to go to hell. Tell the devil to go home where he belongs. Perhaps it is time to reconsider your priorities and leave the devil out of this.

The story about Jesus points out three specific thoughts. One, place the Word of God as a priority. Two, do not test love and respect they are part of the foundation of a relationship. Thirdly check out your ultimate priorities.

The opening story presented the struggle of a young couple. One member dying from a dreadful disease, the other having her life torn apart. This experience is all too common in the lives of families struggling with long term illnesses. This meditation is not written to ignore the terrible events that happen in illness. It is written to be a reminder there are eternal principles that give direction to the struggle.

Often our music talks about hope in such a way that it sounds as if it is “past tense” when in reality it it about the “future tense.”  The Detroit Mass Choir shares this with us singing The Storm is Passing Over.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3jgPsGQSdQ

The end of the thought brings us to know more then the darkness. It brings us the light in Christ.

Christ Be Our Light.

Please take care, be safe and God bless.

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