Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 42; 146, Numbers 11:1-23, Romans 1:16-25, Matthew 17:22-27
“The Monkey’s Paw” is a short story about a mystical artifact (a mummified monkey paw) that has the power to grant three wishes. You are probably familiar with some of the numerous film, television, or other adaptations of this story. The paw twists the wisher’s intent to grant their desires in horrible and disturbing ways. One man wishes for a sum of money, and receives the exact amount as a settlement for his son’s accidental death – the ultimate “be careful what you wish for” moment.
After the Israelites had been wandering the desert for a while, many of them grew tired of eating the manna God provided. Manna was basically boiled into a cake, and people wanted meat. God – displeased with their lack of faith and gratitude – told them they would get meat “until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you.” While God is not malevolent like a Monkey’s Paw, there are still consequences for not wanting to work with the world as God has provided it to us.
Paul’s letter to the church in Rome addresses people who exchanged their understanding of God for something that was more to their liking. In a sense they wished for God to be different in a more worldly and decadent manner, then proceeded to act as if their wish had been granted. The consequences of dissolute living degraded their bodies, minds, and spirits.
As Christians we believe in resurrection and transformation. To many people that may seem like wishful thinking, but we trust that through Christ and the Holy Spirit, God transforms our hearts and our world. Though we must be careful not to get ahead of ourselves and confuse what we hope for with what God is doing. When our endeavors don’t go our way, we assume they have failed. When the Spirit moves through people we can’t bring ourselves to call righteous, we reject their words and efforts. But God creates evangelists from bounty hunters and prophets from murderers … and he doesn’t always clean them up to our satisfaction first.
We don’t change the world by following wishes, but by following Christ. If that’s too bland for our tastes, or not bland enough, we can wish for something different. But in the end, our own wishes taste loathsome when compared to the fruits of the Spirit.
Comfort: Resurrection, better than any wish, is unfolding all around you.
Challenge: When making plans, periodically and prayerfully check in to make sure you aren’t confusing your ideas for God’s.
Prayer: Thy will be done. Amen.
Discussion: Can you recall any experiences in your life when you wanted something and God wanted something better?
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