Pilgrim Notes

Reflections along the way.

Month: November 2017

The Future is Created through Sacrifice

Image by Vinoth Chandar (used by permission via Creative Commons).

Jeremiah sees a vision of hope, a vision of restoration. He sees a time when, “Jerusalem will become a name of joy and praise and pride for all the nations on earth to see; when they hear of all the prosperity that I shall give, they will be seized with fear and trembling at all the prosperity and the peace that I provide for it.” (Je 33:9)

His words bear witness to God’s promise that the people of God will be restored and that the promises of God will be fulfilled. He declares this word of hope while be held captive in the court of the guard. He will soon be brutally thrown down into a well and left for dead. Rescued from the well, he will behold the fall of his beloved homeland and the destruction of Jerusalem. Eventually, he will be driven away from his home and into Egypt where he will die.

Jeremiah’s vision of hope is not for himself. It is given to future generations, to us and to others. He will live through the full brunt of God’s judgment on a faithless nation though he has been God’s servant, declaring the Word of the Lord to the people. Many faithful people, like Jeremiah, laid the foundation for a future world and sacrificed the satisfaction of their lives for a future hope, for a world yet to be born.

As I reflect on Jeremiah’s story, I hear the words from Hebrews, “And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, “since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” (Heb 11:39–40)

These saints laid down their lives in response to God’s call but also for those who would come after them. They played a role in creating the future. Jesus comes as the perfect sacrifice, whose life poured out death and taken up in resurrection becomes our redemption, our hope, our life. Paul tells us that we should “look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Php 2:4–7)

We may not suffer the loss and abandonment of Jeremiah, and yet we learn through him that the future is created through sacrifice. I fear that we live in an age that tends to ignore the past and abandon the future. Even our spiritual reflections often focus on personal goals, personal achievement, and personal fulfillment. We must not live only for self-fulfillment, for our own interests. We also are called to lay down our lives. After the great chapter on saints of faith, the writer of Hebrews calls us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:1–2)

As we follow the Lord, may our lives be poured out for those around us, those behind us, and even those yet to come.

The Lord Remembers

Two psalms linger in my heart long after the morning prayers: one asking God to remember and one trusting in His provision.

Psalm 9 reminds me of the long memory of the Lord. The Creator and Judge of the world hears and remembers the cry of the oppressed.

For the needy shall not always be forgotten 
and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever. (Psalm 9:18)

Then in 147, the psalmist juxtaposes the image of the Lord numbering and naming each star alongside the image of the Lord gathering the brokenhearted and satisfying their desire.

As I enter the morning traffic, I hear these ancient songs continuing to plead before the Lord. Over millennia after these prayers were composed and uttered during the worship of God’s people, the cry still ascends. The prayers echo in the hearts and mouths of people from age to age and across the families and languages of the world.

I am haunted by voices I cannot hear and the faces of those I cannot see who suffer in the dark, outside the public eye both in my community and in our world. Recent headlines remind us that people suffer abuse and fear at all levels of society. Cries of desperation or moans of anguish lift up from the crumbling neighborhoods and the gated subdivisions.

As my imagination lingers over the prayer of remembrance, I see the enslaved, the lonely, the hungry, the sick, and the imprisoned. I think of the aging waitress who works long days with little to show for her efforts. I also hear afresh Richard Wurmbrand’s description of political prisoners who suffer extreme cold and extreme heat and often work themselves to death. I know there are untold numbers of people held in prisons unjustly, suffering, forgotten, and dying alone.

The Psalmist proclaims that the Lord hears these cries. The Lord hears and remembers. The same Creator who spoke every star into being knows each of these dear ones intimately, and he will not abandon them. He remembers and will gather them unto himself. He will satisfy their needs.

As I think about His faithfulness, I am aware of my lack, my unfaithfulness. How does this pray take shape in my hands? Once again, I think about how these ancient prayers come to life in each age, in each person, in each act. How the move toward justice in the people of God has grown out of prayer and not in opposition to prayer.

May my actions carry this prayer for the oppressed into this world of hurt. May I live toward the hope of His redeeming purpose in this world with ears to listen to the stories of downtrodden, eyes ready to behold the forsaken, hands offered to serve and give to the weak and worn-down, and feet walking into the injustices of this world with peace, goodness, and mercy.

I join my voice and heart with this cry from the Daily Prayers:

Compassionate God,
as you know each star you have created,
so you know the secrets of every heart;
in your loving mercy bring to your table
all who are fearful and broken,
all who are wounded and needy,
that our hungers may be satisfied
in the city of your peace;
through Christ who is our peace.

Image by Neil Moralee (used by permission via Creative Commons).

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