Two-Way Street


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 62; 145, Hosea 2:2-15, Acts 20:17-38, Luke 5:1-11

The opening chapters of Hosea compare the relationship between God and Israel to the relationship between a husband and unfaithful wife. The emotions evoked by this image of an intimate betrayal are a useful tool for Hosea. He hopes to shock Israel into repenting over the trust it has violated, much like unfaithful spouses might confess to relieve their own guilt. God trusted Israel in a partnership, but Israel turned elsewhere to satisfy immediate political and material needs. In chapter two, God’s anger eventually yields to a desire for reconciliation – a desire to trust Israel again. To trust us again.

Modern believers can struggle with the idea of a personal God. Does God really feel things like betrayal and trust? Maybe not in ways we understand, but the story of Christianity demonstrates how God relies on us to usher in God’s Kingdom. If we embrace the idea that we are created in the image of God – including faithfulness – maybe we can be a people who deserve that trust.

Jesus trusted extravagantly. According to Luke, when it was time to recruit disciples, he didn’t pick from the people he knew back in Nazareth, or from the residents of Capernaum who adored him for the signs he displayed. Instead he selected strangers who – upon realizing how special he was – declared themselves unworthy of such trust. Along the way they disappointed him more than once, but Jesus trusted these people to become his church.

In our daily lives, are we mindful that God is trusting us at any given moment? As in a marriage, two-way trust should not be a burden, but an expression of mutual love. God trusts us enough to let us fail, as well as to succeed. God’s trust and love never falter, even when we do. Do we live in a way that honors such trust? God creates each of us worthy to help usher in the Kingdom. Let us be trustworthy as well.

Comfort: God’s trust in us is not a burden, but a joyful privilege.

Challenge: Meditate on ways to reconcile with friends or colleagues who may have reason not to trust you.

Prayer: Glorious Creator, I will do my best to be worthy of your trust.

Discussion: In what common situations do you find it difficult to trust people?

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Peace as Surrender

Today’s readings: Psalms 33; 146, Zechariah 2:1-13, Revelation 3:14-22, Matthew 24:32-44


We are not generally fond of the term “surrender” unless it is preceded by “never.” Surrender implies loss, weakness, and cowardice. We lionize those who fight to the death rather than wave the white flag. Our concept of surrender is almost exclusively military, understood in terms of victory or defeat … and ignoble defeat at that.

Maybe that is why we struggle to surrender to God. When we end a prayer for a new job or a good health report with “if it’s God’s will” … doesn’t a small part of us hope God is taking the hint? Truly surrendering to God’s will is a terrifying prospect. One critique of Christians is that we show weakness of character by claiming everything is God’s will to dodge responsibility. Might it be closer to the truth to say we are good at paying lip service to God’s will, but not so good at actually accepting it? Can we really even claim to understand what “God’s will” means? In reality, it takes much courage to surrender ourselves to God; to do so is to risk total annihilation of our own identities.

Except it never seems to turn out that way. When we truly make the effort to surrender ourselves – or even one tiny problem – to God, we find our burdens lightened and our real selves rising to the surface. Does “the effort to surrender” sound like an oxymoron? Isn’t surrender the opposite of doing something? If you’ve tried it, you know it’s not just an effort but an ongoing effort. When we learn to surrender daily, we finally find peace.

Psalm 33 tells us great armies, superior strength, and the mightiest resources ultimately do not save us. Our victory – our peace – lies in trusting the Lord. It’s so easy to convince ourselves our own plans must be God’s plans, and then because we can’t tell the difference, our disappointment robs us of our peace. C.S. Lewis said of prayer: “It doesn’t change God – it changes me.” Let us pray with an attitude of surrender, and trust God to reveal to us our best and most peaceful selves.

Comfort: We can trust that God accepts our surrender with our best interests at heart.

Challenge: What is one problem you need to surrender to God? Put in the work to let it go.