By The Rt. Rev. Shannon Sherwood Johnston
Chapters 10 and 11 of Deuteronomy stand at the very heart of the story of Israel’s journey of faith. Here is the telling of the restoration of the Covenant between God and the people God has chosen for a special relationship. This is established by the replacement of the original tablets upon which the Ten Commandments were written and the construction of the wooden Ark of the Covenant. God has heard Moses’ intercession on behalf of the offending people and will restore the Covenant, bringing Israel into the promised land after all. What is required of the people is their complete faithfulness. The description of the bounteous land they are to occupy provides ample motivation for them to keep their part of the covenant with God. Israel has before it the choice of a blessing for faithfulness and a curse for turning away. The rewards for obedience are great, but presupposing these is not self-interest but a total devotion to the Lord God: a “circumcision of the heart” (10:16). Chapter 12 is important for being a key section in Deuteronomy’s prescription of law, beginning with the definitive new principle of a single established place for Israel’s worship; there will be one, central sanctuary. Finally, there is stern warning against idolatry. Israel must not be enticed into following foreign gods or imitating the practices associated with them. There is but one God who seeks our heart, and but the one God for our heart.
Psalm 56 is a “lament.” The psalmist describes a desperate situation against many foes who perpetrate all manner of injury and evil. There seems to be no escape from their bone-chilling presence and their life-threatening intent. Yet this text is notable for repeated expressions of confidence and trust in God. One is struck by the realism of the psalmist–the dangers are real and many– but courage and faith win the day. Only God can offer true protection and deliverance. Come what may, we may offer thanksgiving.
Luke 14 has two sections. Verses 1-24 contain four stories, quite distinct from each other in their message. What unifies them is a meal. This cannot be overlooked. In Jesus’ world, meals were occasions of great meaning, giving the subject matter of conversation real, “extra” weight. Healing on the Sabbath, humility (2 stories; one about guests, one about hosts) and responsiveness to God’s invitation (along with God’s provision for the outcast) are all addressed to show what God’s openness to fellowship in God’s Kingdom looks like. Verses 25-35 ask us to consider that discipleship has costs and consequences. The final, urgent plea to “listen!” should make us take note and wonder if we really do.
What are the specific ways in which you act upon your devotion to God?
How do you take the time and effort to examine your life of faith?
O Lord my God, give me a heart that longs for you at any cost, in Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.
The Rt. Rev. Shannon Sherwood Johnston is the Bishop of Virginia