Saturday, February 16, 2013

Imagine No Malaria - Lenten Devotion Day 4: February 16

Saturday, February 16: Where Christ Meets Us 
Luke 3:3 “He (John) went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” 

Jesus begins his public ministry not at the Temple, but on the banks of a river. Jesus gathered himself not with the scholars or priests, but with the tax collectors, Roman soldiers, and that significant “character” in the gospels called “the crowds.” John’s message was not some esoteric insight into the divine mysteries; he told the people who had something to share to share, and the soldiers not to bully the people they dealt with, and the tax collectors to quit padding the accounts. John met them all, and Jesus joined them all, out on the edges. We know where we usually are comfortable doing our business, living our lives. John calls us somewhere else. 
If you were one of the scholars, or a Roman official, you might have seen this all as some eccentric little disturbance of the daily routine, something so much to the edge of “real life” that it scarcely merited any notice. However, for those who were there that day - hearing John’s message and seeing his dismay when Jesus presented himself to John, and then seeing or hearing the Divine affirmation of this scene - this wasn’t the edge at all, but the heart of God’s action in this new Kingdom about to break into our world. Blessed are those who can see what’s really happening at the river, with these people on the edge. 
Lent begins at the edge: remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. There’s not much comfort there, except for the way Jesus leaves the river and heads toward the cross. He will be left out to die on the edge of Jerusalem, and he will meet us all there. 
He will meet us when we hear John, really hear and give up illusions of control and really seek out righteousness. He will meet us and introduce us to the malaria victim who is my sister or brother. He will meet us in the mission that is underfunded, the church that is understaffed, and the project that to the rest of the Board looks like meddling. 
And later there will be joy. For the women who simply wanted to do the right thing at the tomb, there would be the greatest of discoveries of something that’s not there. For the eleven who felt it sensible to stay in a locked room, there would be the presence of the One who can’t be locked out. For the crowds by the river, they each will get to be somebody, and that river bank becomes holy ground. 
Prayer: God you meet us and change us through Christ our Messiah. Thank you for the possibilities that lay beyond Ash Wednesday, for the hope of all things new in You. Amen. 

Rev. Harry Riser, Grace United Methodist Church, Alamogordo 
New Mexico Conference 

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