Psalms 102; 148, Isaiah 7:10-25, 2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5, Luke 22:14-30
A continental divide is a geological boundary which, simply put, separates rivers and streams draining toward one body of water from those draining into another. For example, the North American Great Continental Divide roughly marks the border between rivers flowing east toward the Atlantic Ocean and rivers flowing west toward the Pacific Ocean. “Going with the flow” has a different meaning on each side of the divide. If you want to navigate waterways successfully, you need to know where the divide lies.
To successfully navigate a spiritual life upstream we might want to think of it as having a similar divide, but instead of East versus West, it’s more internal versus external. When facing the internal – that is, ourselves and the things we can control – we should try to be objective critics of our own attitudes and behaviors. We progress by identifying where and how we can change, and accepting God’s grace and mercy to help us work toward that change. When we are facing the external – that is, other people and the world beyond our control – we instead need to reflect God’s grace and mercy, and withhold judgment.
Upstream isn’t always the easiest path. Isn’t it more pleasant to let the current carry us downstream? It’s less work. We can go with the flow and let our natural inclinations to excuses ourselves and to condemn others carry us downstream. But that’s the wrong direction.
Even at the Last Supper, Christ’s followers tended toward the easier, backward route.
After Jesus revealed that the one who would betray him was at the table with the disciples, he didn’t name a name. Did any of them (other than his actual betrayer, Judas) focus inward and ask “Could it possibly be me? Why or why not?” No, each immediately denied the possibility it could be him and started trying to figure where to point the finger. This curiosity is natural, but if Jesus didn’t identify Judas, why did the disciples seek the right to condemn him?
After only a short time, the conversation devolved into an argument over who among them was the greatest. We don’t get details, but judging from Jesus’s reaction, it was a lot of self-promotion. Nobody was arguing “No, I’m nothing; you’re the greatest.” The external focus was on dominating others rather than elevating them.
Jesus offers us rivers of living water (John 7:38). We need to learn to navigate them with inward humility and outward mercy to carry our faith where it needs to be.
Comfort: You are both the recipient of grace, and its reflection in the world.
Challenge: Though it’s almost cliched, be the change you want to see in the world.
Prayer: God of grace and mercy, I rely on you for all things in my life, and will share all things from you in the lives of others. Amen.
Discussion: Do you have any tendency to impose your faith on others when you should be asking questions of yourself?
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