Daily Prayer :: Water

Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

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November 9, 2019 — The light of the world

See thoughts on “The Book of Signs” in the November 4 entry.

Image result for jesus and the man born blind

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

See 2 Kings 6:18-20 Elisha blinds people then gives them sight

Today’s reading bears out this thought:

Scripture is like a river again, broad and deep, shallow enough here for the lamb to go wading, but deep enough there for the elephant to swim. —  Gregory the Great’s commentary on Job

People often attribute a similar saying about the Gospel of John to Augustine, but you’d never find it in his writings if you went looking: John’s Gospel is deep enough for an elephant to swim and shallow enough for a child not to drown. — NOT Augustine (354-430) (Thanks internet!). It is still true, even if someone famous did not say it.

You’ll see, if you read John 9:1-41

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.  We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” …

Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

More thoughts for meditation

The lame man at the pool waited 38 years to be healed. Yet, when he was made well, he went to the officials and essentially betrayed Jesus. By contrast in today’s reading, the man born blind, after persecution by the same officials, comes to believe in Jesus and “worships him,” in the process flummoxing the officials with his rebellion.

The sixth sign, this physical cure, calls attention to spiritual blindness — from birth. Jesus calls us to wash in the pool of the “Sent One.”

The sense of the story is that Jesus was not shaken or disturbed by the almost deadly confrontation with the religious leaders that just happened — He was often reviled, but never ruffled.  He came upon a blind man begging, possibly saying he had been born blind. Thus the disciples ask their theological question, “Who sinned?” The man is an unsolved riddle to them, since it was commonly held a great malady must have been caused by a great sin.

Jesus demonstrates an answer that fits all situations: “The whole world is in darkness so I may bring it light.” Everyone can see the glory of God in the face of Jesus. He overrules the disasters of sin and death. People are not theology problems or moral dilemmas, they are possibilities of grace.

Jesus uses an unpredictable and unrepeatable method of healing to which the man must respond in faith by washing in the Pool of Siloam. Siloam is the “sent” pool, since the water came through Hezekiah’s remarkable tunnel, and so was sent into the city.  The man was sent to the sent pool by the Sent One. He came back with sight, the first person born blind known to have been healed by God (a sure sign of the Messiah — Isaiah 35:5).

Some Pharisees think only a sinner would heal on the Sabbath. Others think no sinner could perform such a miracle. They interrogate the man — and his parents! The beggar confronts the elite with one of the funniest and profound lines in the Bible: “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They throw him out of the temple.

Jesus finds the formerly blind man and essentially says, “”The religious leaders say ‘You can’t worship with us in the temple.’ But I will receive your worship.”

Suggestions for action

Wade like a lamb or swim like an elephant.

Pray: I would like to see. Show me glory, Light of the World.

Some people might read this and still go back to a question like the disciples had, only ask it as they look at themselves, “Am I blind? Have I done something wrong so I can’t see better? Did I not go wash when I was sent so I’m scarred with spiritual blindness?” The disciples look a bit ignorant until we see how often we see ourselves as intellectual problems rather than objects of the Lord’s mercy and power. Call out to Jesus, who is nearby listening for you.

It might help to feel yourself in the story somewhere. Maybe you are watching the whole thing. Maybe you relate to the man’s parents, facing the authorities. Maybe you can see the situation like Jesus. There is probably a similar situation in your own experience on which you could meditate with a similar, instructive lens. Read the whole story again prayerfully and see if a character or instance resonates.

 

November 8, 2019 — “I am; do not be afraid.” 

See thoughts on “The Book of Signs” in the November 4 entry.

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

See 2 Kings 6:1-6:  Elisha and the floating ax head

Read John 6:13-27

 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified.  But he said to them, “It is I;[b] do not be afraid.” Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going….”Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”

More thoughts for meditation

Previously in chapter 6, Jesus feeds thousands of people who had been following Him. He does this by miraculously dividing the contents of a small lunch, leaving much more left over than He had to begin with. At first, the crowd is amazed and they enthusiastically praise Jesus. After sending the disciples across the Sea of Galilee, and rescuing them from a storm by walking on the water, Jesus once again addresses the crowd. This time, He emphasizes the spiritual lesson behind His prior miracle. In response, most of those who had been praising Jesus turn away from Him in disappointment.

The walking on water is fifth of John’s seven miracles in the “Book of Signs” which all serve to point to God with us in Jesus. (This passage also describes a ”hidden” miracle, not part of the main seven, involving the disciples and their speedy boat.) Matthew and Mark provide more details about this incident in their respective Gospels (Mark 6:45–52; Matthew 14:22–30).

The disciples followed Jesus’ instructions to cross the Sea of Galilee. This obedience landed them right in the middle of the lake during a rough burst of wind. Jesus sent the men away from the crowds to avoid entangling them in political unrest (John 6:15), and so they wouldn’t confuse the spiritual meaning of His miracle with the crowd’s reaction. At this point, the men don’t yet grasp the importance of what Jesus did in feeding the crowd (Mark 6:52).

This is not a hurricane, but the storm certainly makes getting across the water much harder and more dangerous. But Jesus has been watching, and decides to come out to assist them (Mark 6:48). In the midst of that, the disciples see something which actually did frighten them: a human figure walking on top of the waves. As it turns out, this is Jesus—who needs to call out to the men to reassure them not to be afraid. The translators often de-symbolize the “Ego eimi” (I am) as Jesus reassures them, by using “It is I.” It might be more consistent with the rest of the “I ams” in John and certainly as dramatic as walking on water to hear Jesus say, “I am. Do not be afraid” or “Behold, I am. Do not be afraid.” His words might deliberately echo a comforting portion of Isaiah 41.

Suggestions for action

This incident teaches a nice lesson about difficulty and suffering. You might think that your difficulties are caused by your stupidity or are punishments for some unknown (or known) disobedience. Not in this case. The disciples found themselves in rough seas, after Jesus told them specifically to sail across the Sea of Galilee. Their hard time came because they obeyed! We tend to be self-centered enough to think we cause everything. But following the Lord’s guidance could mean heading into a storm. Should you reimagine some incidents where you felt burdened by your struggles?

What are your biggest fears right now? What if Jesus came up next to your storm-tossed boat with, “Behold. I am?” What does that feel like? It might take a minute to get into the scene. Go back over the whole incident. Let Isaiah 41 get into the picture. Spend enough time rowing “against the wind” instead of just getting blown away so Jesus knows you need some help.

November 7, 2019 — What are you going to do?

See thoughts on “The Book of Signs” in the November 4 entry.

Today’s Bible reading

See 2 Kings 4:38-44 Elisha feeds many with few loaves

Read John 6:1-14

When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 

More thoughts for meditation

It looks like Jesus is giving Philip a midterm examination! “How are we to buy bread so that these people may eat?” People often joke that the correct Sunday school answer is always, “Jesus!” Philip doesn’t totally get that yet, even though he’s been with Jesus for a couple of years. Besides, Jesus asks him how to buy bread, so his mind went to money.

Philip was correct. They did not have enough money. He probably should have turned the question around. “I have no idea how we’re going to do it. What are YOU going to do?”

Jesus did not expect to buy bread and he knew Philip would be unlikely to give the right answer. It looks like his question was designed to set before Philip a predicament that had no human solution so he could learn to think and feel a deeper way.

Surely that “test” has happened to you! You might be in such a state right now. You are faced with a predicament for which you can find no answer in the normal resources of human life — yours, in particular. That is the human condition Jesus laid out for Philip. The disciple’s response quickly went to despair; he thought there was no way this need could be met.

God forgive the Philip in all of us! How many times have we calculated the work of God based on our capacity to accomplish it?! As knowledgeable as the info society is these days, the people of the world still experience missing elements, great blanks, they try to fill in various ways. Only the body of Christ offers the bread of truth and love that deeply feeds the hungers of life.

Suggestion for action

Pray: Whether I look all around in me or all around outside me and see great hunger, help me receive the bread of life from your hand.

The people of Israel were freed from their bondage in Egypt but had little facility for living a life of dependence with God. Their daily delivery of manna as they journeyed through the desert helped them learn to trust and be satisfied with what was given, not what was imagined. Jesus can satisfy hungers we have trouble identifying, even when they are driving our behavior and steering our loves. Take a deep breath and see how satisfied you can feel.

In an age of scientific possibilities many people think most problems are solvable if you have enough money and time. Regardless, they don’t think a decent human being should give up in the face of difficulties. Don’t those sentences resonate with you? Wouldn’t Jesus need to set up a test you could fail in order for you to see something other than what has convinced you so far? Do you even entertain the “impossible?” — or is that too dangerous? Do you think Jesus is walking into a situation beyond your capacity to handle in which he would like to do something wonderful?

November 6, 2019 — Would you like to be made well?

See thoughts on “The Book of Signs” in the November 4 entry.

Image result for jesus bethesda

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

See 2 Kings 5: Naaman enters to pool to be cleaned

Read John 5:1-15

When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”

More thoughts for meditation

The signs seem to be building toward a crescendo. So the story of this man being healed can be contrasted with the later healing of the blind man. Jesus finds a skeptical, argumentative man at the pool in Jerusalem who has been at the pool thirty-eight years without being healed. Jesus asks him, “Do you want to be healed?”

Jesus may be holding his hand out to parts of us which have been laying around inside for years as well, so we know how this questions feels.

Jesus lifts the man to his feet and he can walk! He is questioned by the authorities who object to him carrying his mat on the Sabbath. Later on, Jesus sees him in the temple and goes up to him with a warning: “Stop sinning or worse things might happen to you!” What does the man do? He immediately goes to the officials and tells them Jesus is the one who healed him and caused him to carry his mat around!

Suggestions for action

Pray: I want to be well. Help me with my skepticism about that possibility.

It is amazing, in a bad way, how often we have experienced a sign that points to Jesus and discounted it, or reinterpreted it so it fits into the prevailing philosophies of the rulers, or even used it to shame someone who believes it! We are broken in numbers of ways. If any of this applies to you, confess it.

At the same time, note that Jesus comes and finds this man who doesn’t seem to be going with the program, who has probably given up by this time, and who has a logical reason (to his mind) why he hasn’t been healed. That’s the one he heals – almost against his wishes, and certainly against the prevailing propriety the rulers have instituted about the Sabbath, which also prevents it to serve its healing purpose. No matter how far away, mistaken or resistant you may be, Jesus is looking for you. Connect with some part in you Jesus would like to heal.

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