Sometimes when I sit down to write one of these posts, the title is clear to me as I begin; other times, nothing occurs to me as my mind begins to explore whatever I think I’m going to write about. And sometimes, I sit down at the keyboard and find that my clever plan for the day’s post gets tossed to one side and something completely unrelated finds its way through my fingers to the screen.
This morning, I sat down with a pretty good idea of what I want to write about, but no title occurred to me. It will be interesting to see what suggests itself when I am ready to publish the post!
What’s on my mind this morning comes from two directions: The psalm, which is one of my favorites, and the gospel reading, which always puzzles me a little. I think both of them speak to the theme of transformation which seems to be calling for my attention these days.
Both Psalm 1 and the reading from Matthew’s 6th chapter call us to transformation through a study in contrasts. Psalm 1 give us the just man, who gives all of his attention to the law of the Lord and so rejects the path of sin. I love the imagery the psalmist offers of “a tree planted near running water, that yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves never fade.” The early verses of the psalm point to how our very walking and sitting — the simple actions of our daily lives — are directed toward God when we are firmly turned toward Him. Reflecting on this imagery brings a sense of firm foundations and constant refreshment.
And then the contrast: “Not so the wicked, not so” — in the wicked man there is no foundation, no substance, nothing solid. Instead, we see chaff in the wind. Without God, there is nothing to hold onto and nothing to anchor us, nothing to save us from being swept away.
The gospel reading today continues the theme of contrast. Jesus points out that He and His precursor, John the Baptist, had different approaches to their physical needs for sustenance. John fasted constantly; the Pharisees claimed that he was possessed by a demon. Jesus ate and drank; the Pharisees claimed that He was a glutton and a drunkard who befriended sinners.
Sometimes you just can’t get anything right.
I think what Jesus is telling us here is that we need to be watchful for that call to transformation.
It seems to me that He wanted His followers to understand that it isn’t the choice of fasting or of eating and drinking that is important. The choice that matters is the decision to follow Him. When we do so, we are open to being transformed into the kind of person the psalmist described — delighting in the Lord, planted firmly by the stream of His grace and constantly refreshed and growing in love as a result. When Jesus says that “wisdom is vindicated by her works,” I think He is referring to the fruits of the transformation He works in us. When we are following Him — consciously responding to His call, openly living in His grace — we are changed, and we are changing. We behave differently. We are not fooled by the outward appearances or the judgmental definitions the world offers. We see God in the faces and events of our day; we constantly ask Him to show us what He wants us to see; we offer ourselves into His service.
There is a hymn that beautifully expresses the response I think He is looking for: “Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord? I can hear You calling in the night…..I will go, Lord, if You lead me. I will hold Your people in my heart.” (Here I Am, Lord, by Daniel L. Schutte)
Transformation, the call. Love, the response. Never mind what it looks like.
Just now, I knew the title for today’s post.
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