Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 5; 145, Genesis 25:19-34, Hebrews 13:1-16, John 7:37-52
It’s not something that comes naturally to most of us. As a matter of fact, it’s often the opposite of our nature. We spend our lives in bodies that are convinced death lies around every corner. Because our bodies don’t know when food might be available again, they tell us to store energy by overeating now. Because they don’t know whether pain and discomfort will stop, they demand relief in the form of drinks and pills. Because they are desperate to reproduce they talk us into mistaking lust for love and connection.
Bodies can feel like temples to the gods of despair, where we sacrifice the future to survive the present.
Esau and Jacob were the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah. “When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents.” (Gen 25:27) One day Esau returned famished from the field, and demanded Jacob share his food. Jacob instead offered to sell it to his brother – in exchange for Esau’s birthright as the older son. Esau, caught up in his body’s hunger, agreed. “Thus Esau despised his birthright.” (v 34)
How often do we – like Esau – sell ourselves short to satisfy an immediate longing?
And yet … Christ’s promise of eternal life helps us to rise above the limitations of our mortal bodies. Perhaps part of being born again is reclaiming the birthright we have despised through sin. When we the hungry know the assurance of the bread of life and the living water, we are no longer driven by fear, but by love. Our bodies, gifts from God, become instruments of service rather than masters of need.
To become servants in the image of Christ, we have to learn to put the needs of others before our own desires – to take that which was once first to us and make it last. Our longings may still tempt us, but we can choose better when not gripped by fear. We can be cooperative instead of competitive. Our temptations can help us develop empathy for those who still fear, for we were once in their place and it was humble love, not force or intimidation or arrogance, that saved us.
Delaying gratification for the purpose of retaining our birthright will always be a struggle, but that struggle is where we can identify in some small way with Christ crucified. It is where we learn to be more than bodies and find the fulfillment of being part of The Body. It is where perfect love casts out fear “So we can say with confidence ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?’” (Heb 13:6)
Comfort: God’s love will deliver us from fear.
Challenge: Ask yourself what temptations you find hardest to resist, then ask what need is still not being met by giving in to them.
Prayer: In you O Lord I seek refuge and peace. Amen.
Discussion: What fears drive your behavior?
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