As we wander and wait in savage, feral natures, let us encourage each other. Cry out to me, “Strip away the weeds, clear away the overgrowth. The Lord is coming your way!” And I will call to you, “Use all the grains of sand in this desert to pave a straight path for Him to walk. Make His way smooth and unhindered by this parched land."
Inspired by Isaiah 40:3
a thought to consider:
“The edge of hope that constantly invades the seasoned grounds of despair, the faith that keeps watch at the doors through which pass all the labors of my life and heart for what is right and true, the impulse to forgive and to seek forgiveness even when the injury is sharp and clear—these and countless other things make me know that by day and by night my life is surrounded by the love of God."
Meditations of the Heart by Howard Thurman
something Jesus said:
“But, I say to you who listen and pay attention to My words: Love. Unselfishly seek the best or higher good for your enemies. Make it a practice to do good to those who hate you. Bless and show kindness to those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever strikes you on the cheek, offer him the other one also. Simply ignore insignificant insults or losses and do not bother to retaliate—maintain your dignity.”
There was a lot more of this—words that gave strength to the people, words that put heart in them. The Message! But Herod, the ruler, stung by John’s rebuke in the matter of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, capped his long string of evil deeds with this outrage: He put John in jail. For John had provoked Herod by naming his relationship with Herodias “adultery.”
Herodias, smoldering with hate, wanted to kill him, but didn’t dare because Herod was in awe of John. Whenever Herod listened to John he was miserable with guilt. Something in John kept holding Herod back. Convinced that John was a holy man, he gave him special treatment.
But a day arrived when Herod threw a birthday party, inviting all the brass and bluebloods of Galilee. Herodias’ daughter entered the banquet hall and danced for them. She dazzled Herod and the guests. So, Herod said to her, “Ask me anything. I’ll give you anything you want. I swear, I’ll split my kingdom with you if you say so!” She asked her mother, “What should I ask for?” Herodias answered, “Ask for the head of John the Baptizer.” Excited, she rand back to the king and said, “I want the head of John the Baptizer served up on a platter. And I want it now!”
Unwilling to lose face with his guests, Herod caved in and let her have her wish. He sent the executioner off to the prison with orders to bring back John’s head. The executioner went, cut off John’s head, brought it back on a platter and presented it to the girl, who gave it to her mother.
from Luke 3:18-20; Mark 6: 17-29
If you could throw a dinner party with any three people in history, whom would you invite? Where would you host your feast? What would be on the menu?
Me? Jesus, Peter and John the Baptist on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. I’d ask Peter to do us the honor of bringing in the catch of the day, and I’d ask Jesus to do us the honor of grilling it up. Out of respect for his dietary needs, John could bring some honey and even locusts. I’d provide the blankets and the wine, and start the evening off contemplative and reverent in the company of Greatness. I’d have to ask, “John, what went through your mind when the executioner came for your head? What did you think of Jesus then? And, Jesus, forgive my insolence, but why didn’t you save him?”
“And, Peter, when you heard the news about John’s murder, didn’t you want to turn on your heel and go home? Why would you still follow this Man who obviously wasn’t bothered by death? Did you think He was mad, or a maniac? It’s a fair question. Even his family thought him strange and in need of care.
“Forgive me, Jesus, but you didn’t seem to be bothered by it. Your cousin’s head landed on the platter of your enemy. Did you ever question if you were going about things the right way? When facing your own murder You asked the Father if there was any other way. I’m always asking the Father is there any other way than this suffering and pain. Is there?
“John, you told everyone that Jesus was the One. You even said He was so Great that you were not even fit to tie His sandals. That’s what you told everyone. Yet in prison, did you hear about that prostitute who bathed His feet with her tears and wiped them away with her hair? Is this why you sent your disciples to ask Him, “Are you the One?” I don’t blame you at all. I ask Him the same thing some days: "Are you the one?" There have been so many more martyrs for justice since your beheading, John. Did you know that?
“Jesus there have been hundreds of thousands of years of death and martyrdom—so many unjust years. What are we supposed to do about all these injustices?”
The fire is dying down. There are only scraps and bones on our plates and the wine has run out. The only noise surrounding us is the moonlight that’s so bright it’s loud. Staring into the fire, Jesus pokes at the smoldering flames and speaks into them, “Daughter, I have already told you all of these things. They are already written so that you would remember that in Me you may have perfect peace.”
He turns to me, completely swallowing me in the tenderness of His voice, “In this world you will have tribulation, distress, suffering and yes, Marcie—injustice.” He takes my hand into His calloused and scarred palm and leans His head toward mine, “But, be courageous,” He whispers into my ear. “Be confident. Be undaunted. Be filled with joy. I have overcome the world.” He pulls away and smiles at me, “My defeat of all those things was long ago accomplished and My victory abides beyond the hundreds of thousands of years of all of it. Believe me.”
John 3:30; 16:32-33; 21:1-14
1. Jesus said that the greatest commandment of all is to love God with every inch of your being, and the second greatest one is to love others as much as you love yourself. If everyone were to actually do this, do you believe that we would see justice reign here on earth as it is in heaven? If so, what would you need to do differently to play your part in seeing that kind of love in the world?
2. Do you completely accept and soundly love yourself with a love that would be worth giving to someone else? Or, do you need to learn to love yourself well?
3. Who do you find it easy to love? Who can you not imagine loving?
4. When Jesus’ fame was increasing and more people were coming to Him rather than John the Baptist, John’s disciples were naturally concerned. But John told them, “He must increase and I must decrease.” John decreased to his death. He never got to witness Jesus' increase here on earth. If you know that you may never get to see Jesus’ promise of justice here on earth, is it still worth your effort to still cry out for it like John the Baptist did?
Jesus, You are love. You call us to abide and bask in Your love. But our hatred overrules that desire to wait in you. Our hatred causes conflict and division. Teach us to truly love You with our whole being. Teach us to love You with everything that we are including our ideals, opinions, traditions and points-of-view. Transform us with Your love. Lord, not even death can undo or separate us from Your all-powerful, conquering, justice-wielding love. Arm us with it as our shield and strength as we battle through tribulation, distress, suffering and injustice. Make every injustice that rises against us sink beneath the weight of that love. In Your name I pray, let it be so.
May you prepare your lips to rejoice and shout for joy because He will justly judge all the nations. So sing even when the way gets rough and sorrowful in the immense thickness of an unjust and unrelenting wilderness. Injustice will not prevail!