Map Dreams

Have you ever had a dream that pointed you in the right direction toward something that had been eluding you? It is said that during our sleep, the subconscious processes events of the day and attempts to untangle them. Perhaps that is the goal of that persistent dream we all have where we are taking a final for a class we never attended. Our brains are still trying to deal with decades of test anxiety. In my persistent dream, I am late and I can’t find my way to church on Sunday morning and sometimes I can’t find my shoes. Last night I had this dream with an interesting and horrifying twist … I couldn’t find a cup of coffee. I was lost on a boardwalk of some kind, trying to find my way to the theater where we were holding the church service. I saw myself in a mirror and realized that I had no make-up on, and very mean people refused to help me. Worst of all, someone offered me a cup of coffee that turned out to be salsa with cilantro. Kid you not. It was a nightmare.

Today’s Scripture comes from the book of Acts and describes a fantastic voyage that begins with a dream. In this case, the dream points Paul’s gang toward a new adventure:

Acts 16 (The Message)

9-10 That night Paul had a dream: A Macedonian stood on the far shore and called across the sea, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” The dream gave Paul his map. We went to work at once getting things ready to cross over to Macedonia. All the pieces had come together. We knew now for sure that God had called us to preach the good news to the Europeans.

Peterson has a way with words, and the image of the dream giving Paul a map is lovely. It makes one wonder if daydreams accomplish the same thing. It is often in these moments of musing that we relax enough to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us toward some God-objective that we have been resisting. It is also a good reminder that God is constantly trying to order our steps toward a goal that he has set out for us to achieve.

11-12 Putting out from the harbor at Troas, we made a straight run for Samothrace. The next day we tied up at New City and walked from there to Philippi, the main city in that part of Macedonia and, even more importantly, a Roman colony. We lingered there several days.

Let’s talk about the geography of this adventure. I just spent 22 hours in four airplanes coming home from a trip, so I am more than a little intrigued with Paul’s travel. Think of it! It boggles the mind. This part of Paul’s journey is considered to be his second missionary journey, which took him from Asia to Europe for the first time. During this trip he visited the major cities of modern-day Greece, covering hundreds of miles by ship and on foot. Here is a good article and map that shows this journey in purple.

How far would YOU go to deliver the good news of the gospel?

Paul’s journey continues. We will simply read the rest of this passage for now, but we’ll come back next week for the “rest of the story,” where we will talk more in depth about Lydia and what she symbolizes.

13-14 On the Sabbath, we left the city and went down along the river where we had heard there was to be a prayer meeting. We took our place with the women who had gathered there and talked with them. One woman, Lydia, was from Thyatira and a dealer in expensive textiles, known to be a God-fearing woman. As she listened with intensity to what was being said, the Master gave her a trusting heart—and she believed!

15 After she was baptized, along with everyone in her household, she said in a surge of hospitality, “If you’re confident that I’m in this with you and believe in the Master truly, come home with me and be my guests.” We hesitated, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Is God showing you a map of some kind? Do your dreams nudge you in a direction that is more in line with God’s will than your present trajectory? Are you resisting a change of course? Where are you going with your life? Paul’s example is to follow God’s map wherever it may lead us.

May God give you fair winds and following seas as you pursue his dream for your life.

Finding Direction by Gerry Knorr

Make Every Minute Count

One of the things I encourage all my bible study participants to do is to read a passage in multiple translations. I recently met with a seminary student and made the same suggestion for sermon preparation. Doing this will ensure that your understanding of a passage is expanded. And sometimes, you come up with something quite unexpected!

Our passage from Ephesians today made me laugh out loud when I read it in the Contemporary English Version. I was not expecting to see something as forthright as “don’t be stupid.” As we say in the church, that will preach! How many times have you heard that said in an argument, or as your teenager is leaving the house with your car keys in his hand, or even to yourself as you are contemplating making a questionable choice? “Don’t be stupid” is wisdom for (and from!) the ages.

Paul loved the church in Ephesus, and was constantly praying and advising them in their new life as followers of Jesus. His recommendations in the fifth chapter are as relevant today as they were to the early church: 

Ephesians 5 (Contemporary English Version)

15 Act like people with good sense and not like fools. 16 These are evil times, so make every minute count. 

Let’s pause here and consider this. Do you think we are also living in evil times? Sadly, I think the case can be made that we are. This makes the rest of what Paul had to say even more important.

17 Don’t be stupid. Instead, find out what the Lord wants you to do. 18 Don’t destroy yourself by getting drunk, but let the Spirit fill your life. 19 When you meet together, sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, as you praise the Lord with all your heart. 20 Always use the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to thank God the Father for everything.

Find out what the Lord wants you to do. That is good advice for us today. What is God calling you to do in this evil time? What is he calling the church to do? Surely our infighting grieves his heart. What would the church look like if we would simply focus on singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and confine ourselves to praising the Lord with all our hearts?

God calls us today to act like people with good sense. That might require change. That might require remaining silent. That might require articulating your position in calm, even tones.

I recently had a debate with someone whose passion was so great, she could not listen to my heart as I tried to articulate my position. The sting of that is still with me. Was it worth it to compromise our relationship with strident words that landed nowhere? My position was unchanged after the conversation, but my feelings for her were. This is a good reminder that in every conversation, we should put the relationship, not the topic, first. We don’t know how many more conversations we will have with someone. Good sense dictates that we don’t squander a moment with someone we care about.

Paul is right. We need to make every minute count.

So let us take this as our marching orders and go out and seize the day….and don’t be stupid!

Thank God for Everything by Kathy Schumacher

Finders, Seekers

Do you remember a time when you couldn’t pick up your phone to access a global source of information in a matter of seconds? We are so accustomed to having a map, dictionary, encyclopedia, calculator, instant news, weather, etc. at our finger tips, it’s no wonder we freak out when we lose our smart phones or worse, drop them in the toilet.

Yes, I’ve done that.

Twice.

I haven’t the foggiest notion of how Google works, but I do know that you have to frame your search inquiry correctly to get the results you want. As search engines evolve and algorithms track your previous searches, it gets easier to find things out. For example, I do so many searches for Scriptures that Scripture references now pop up whenever I type in a few words. Alexa listens to our conversations and then an ad for that very thing magically pops up on our FaceBook feed. We are living in a time when artificial intelligence not only responds to our inquires, but actually directs our behavior. Big Brother is not just watching us, he has moved into the guest room and has commandeered the best fluffy comforter and the biggest bathroom in the house.

But none of this happens until you initiate a request for a response. You start the process by seeking something: a product, an answer, a direction … you seek, and Google finds.

I wonder if the Wisemen would have found Jesus faster if they had Google Maps and a Star Finder app.

Last Christmas someone sent me a card that read, “Wise people still seek him.” I love that. Whenever we stretch out an arm to shade our eyes and cast our vision outward, we can easily find God. He is never far away from our presence, and longs to be found.

He can be found in the eyes of a homeless man looking for help. He can be heard in the cries of a child separated from her family at our nation’s border. He can be felt in the palm of a dying grandmother, longing for one last hand-holding with her grandson. He can be seen in the Sunday morning choir as they stand to bring their harmony into worship. God can be found in God’s people everywhere: all we have to do is look.

In seminary, a professor taught me that the Bible is God’s love letter to his people. In Scripture, we find not just the answers to the complexity of the world and beyond, but the Answer to everything in Christ Jesus.

The Old Testament is the search. The New Testament brings the answer.

Hebrews 11 The Message (MSG)

11 1-2 The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.

3 By faith, we see the world called into existence by God’s word, what we see created by what we don’t see.

6 And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.

Anyone who wants to approach God must believe that God cares enough to respond to those who SEEK him. Ask, knock, and seek, and you will find.

Psalm 105 English Standard Version (ESV)

1 Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;

    make known his deeds among the peoples!

2  Sing to him, sing praises to him;

    tell of all his wondrous works!

3  Glory in his holy name;

    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!

4 Seek the Lord and his strength;

    seek his presence continually!

Got questions? Need answers? Feeling empty and long to be made full?

Seek God today. He will be found.

Sunrise Reflections by Michelle Robertson

Sharing

There is a town in central Florida called Celebration that has a charming, old-fashioned downtown area. The businesses that line the streets often have dog water bowls and little baskets filled with dog treats to entice you to stop and look in their windows. You can imagine my dog Georgia’s incredible joy when we discovered this! The downside for the other dogs is that her stop at the bike rental water bowl completely depleted their offering.

Now mind you, my girl is no angel, but the kindness these folks show the local dogs made me think about the scripture about “entertaining angels” in the book of Hebrews:

Hebrews 13 New International Version (NIV)

13 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. 3 Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

Providing hospitality is a common theme in the Bible. Think about travel in those days; inns were few and far between, or completely absent all together. Travelers could only get by with a little help from unknown friends, so providing shelter and a meal was commonplace.

Remember the story of Abraham and Sarah from Genesis 18? Three strangers came along as Abraham was sitting outside his tent. He jumped up and offered them water, bread, and the shade of his tree:

Genesis 18 Common English Bible (CEB)

18 The Lord appeared to Abraham at the oaks of Mamre while he sat at the entrance of his tent in the day’s heat. 2 He looked up and suddenly saw three men standing near him. As soon as he saw them, he ran from his tent entrance to greet them and bowed deeply. 3 He said, “Sirs, if you would be so kind, don’t just pass by your servant. 4 Let a little water be brought so you may wash your feet and refresh yourselves under the tree. 5 Let me offer you a little bread so you will feel stronger, and after that you may leave your servant and go on your way—since you have visited your servant.”

They responded, “Fine. Do just as you have said.”

Abraham offered the standard of care: water for foot washing and a little bread. But look what actually happens:

6 So Abraham hurried to Sarah at his tent and said, “Hurry! Knead three seahs of the finest flour and make some baked goods!” 7 Abraham ran to the cattle, took a healthy young calf, and gave it to a young servant, who prepared it quickly. 8 Then Abraham took butter, milk, and the calf that had been prepared, put the food in front of them, and stood under the tree near them as they ate.

It was a five-star meal. Course after course of breads, meat, butter, milk … he opened up a smorgasbord of hospitality for these three men. And mind you, while we’re in on the fact that it was the Lord whom he entertained (read vs. 1 again), Abraham wasn’t. He was simply extending gracious hospitality because he had it to give …. thereby, entertaining angels.

How would you respond differently if you suspected that the hungry, dirty people needing your hospitality were the Lord and his angels? Would you lavish your resources on them, or offer water and a little bread? Would you close the door in their faces?

Jesus was very clear when he said that whenever you have offered the cup of cold water to the “least of these,” you have entertained him. So keep on showing hospitality to strangers. Keep on feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the unclothed, and most of all, keep on loving one another as your brothers and sisters.

Sharing by Michelle Robertson

Parts Unknown

Think of a time when you had to travel to a new destination. A place you’ve never been before, never had to figure out how to get there, and really don’t have any idea what to expect when you arrive.

As you read this, I am in such a place. My husband and I are on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Alaska, celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary. It is absolutely thrilling!

Life transitions such as the death of a spouse, a job transfer out of state, a military assignment, adopting a child, getting married, the first year of college, a pandemic, etc. are all times when we experience the mystery of “you’ve never traveled this way before.” Even addiction recovery can feel this way, when a person finally overcomes his or her past and ventures into sober life for the first time. It is like standing at a crossroad in an unknown town and looking in all directions saying, “What now?”

The third chapter of Joshua tells the “what now” story of the Israelites’ journey through a very foreign but still-promised land. They were of one mind and heart as they ventured forward, trusting their leadership to get them to the place where God was calling them to settle:

Joshua 3 (Common English Bible)

3 Joshua took down the camp early in the morning. He and all the Israelites marched out of Shittim and came to the Jordan, where they stayed overnight before crossing. At the end of three days the officers went through the middle of the camp. They commanded the people, “As soon as you see the Lord your God’s chest containing the covenant and the levitical priests carrying it, you are to march out from your places and follow it. But let there be some distance between you and it, about three thousand feet. Don’t come near it!

(If an image of one of the final scenes in Raiders of the Lost Ark just flashed through your mind, you are my hero. “Don’t come near it” indeed!!)

You will know the way you should go, even though you’ve never traveled this way before.”

This sentence is EVERYTHING. God assures us that when he calls us into a new place outside of our comfort zone, he will go ahead of us. We will know the way to go, even though we’ve never gone that way before. Do you know how to get ready?

Joshua said to the people, “Make yourselves holy! Tomorrow the Lord will do wonderful things among you.” 

Make yourself holy. Stop, reflect, PRAY, meditate on scripture, and make yourself ready for your journey. God will do wonderful things among you.

Then Joshua said to the priests, “Lift up the covenant chest. Go along in front of the people.” So they lifted up the covenant chest and went in front of the people.

This is a final reminder for your journey: fix your eyes on God’s promise. Keep steady and walk forward. Don’t look to the right or the left … God’s future is ahead of you.

The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to make you great in the opinion of all Israel. Then they will know that I will be with you in the same way that I was with Moses.

Is God calling you to travel with him into some unknown? Are you scared? May you also know with the same assurance as the Israelites that God will be with you in your “what now” as well.

Here We Go!

Clarity

Contact lenses are a wonderful thing … when they work. They free us up from wearing/losing/finding our glasses, they often work better than glasses, and they are able to bring our eyes up to 20/20 vision. From hard to soft to disposable, there are a lot of choices.

Wish you had blue eyes? Buy them! Need trifocals? We can do that! Have a condition known as “mono vision,” where one eye sees distance well and the other reads well? Lenses of different strengths can balance that out. Just don’t fall asleep in them or you will wake up thinking that someone put Vaseline on your eyeballs. And don’t wear them on a long airplane ride … the dry air turns them into see-through hockey pucks.

Do you ever wish you could apply 20/20 vision to your spiritual, emotional, or relational vision? In times of confusion, emotional manipulation, distraction, or when you realize you are in a cloud of deception, wouldn’t it be lovely to pop in clarifying contacts and be able to actually see things for what they are?

Fortunately for us, we can access the mind of Christ.

2 Corinthians (NIV)

10 The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.

13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for,“Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”

But we have the mind of Christ.

Using Christ as a lens through which we see the world brings a wonderful clarity which we could never achieve on our own. The triune nature of God allows us to receive the Holy Spirit in real time. God’s active, alive, and attentive Spirit stays in tune with our spirits and is ready to lead, guide, direct, and correct our vision no matter what we are doing.

We just need to remember to apply it. Like lenses that sit in the box in the medicine cabinet, all the clarifying power of God through the Holy Spirit is useless until we intentionally look for it and look THROUGH it. Discernment comes through prayer, scripture reading, talking with friends and mentors, and sitting quietly in the presence of God and LISTENING.

So open your eyes. Open your mind. Open your heart and invite the Holy Spirit in to show you what is truth. We have received the Spirit of God so that we may understand what God has freely given us. We have the mind of Christ, if we just LOOK for it. The Spirit of God never fogs over or dries out. You can always count on God’s perfect 20/20 vision for your life.

Clarity by Michelle Robertson

See Ya Real Soon

In the typical order of worship, there is one moment we all look forward to: the benediction. Come on, you know you do! It means the service has been completed, the message has been delivered, the songs have been sung, and the prayers faithfully prayed. It signals that the irritation of 1. trying to keep your kids quiet; 2. sitting next to someone who put on WAAAY too much perfume or aftershave; or 3. the loud whisperer behind you catching up on gossip is finally over and you can go home. Even pastors like the benediction. Trust me, we look forward to it, too. It means our week’s work is finished and for better or worse, we have offered our labor to the Lord and now get to catch our breath before starting all over again.

You know that in pastor-time, Sunday comes every 4 1/2 days, right?

Today we are reading Paul’s benediction to the people in Corinth. I love his happy goodbye as he is leaving people whom he loves:

2 Corinthians 13 (The Message)

11-13 And that’s about it, friends. Be cheerful. Keep things in good repair. Keep your spirits up. Think in harmony. Be agreeable. Do all that, and the God of love and peace will be with you for sure. 

That is a sermon in itself.

Be cheerful. No matter what your daily trials are, we all have eternity to look forward to at the benediction of our lives.

Keep things in good repair such as your house, your family, and especially your soul.

Keep your spirit up! Don’t let the small stuff get you down. By the way, it’s all small stuff.

Think in harmony. This one sentence is a whole sermon series. It is a great reinforcement of the fact that God desires unity in the body of Christ. That can only happen when we lay down our individuality, our differences, and we work to THINK in harmony.

Be agreeable. If you do these things, you will experience the peace and love of God all week. Sermon done, right there in the benediction.

Then comes this little challenge:

Greet one another with a holy embrace. All the brothers and sisters here say hello.

Reading this verse in a pandemic, or in flu season, or when people are doused in too much perfume, presents a bit of a stumbling block for us. Other translations go even farther and translate this as “greet each other with a holy kiss.” The lack of social cheek-kissing in America as you might experience in other countries makes this even more alarming for American readers. 

This way of salutation was practiced in eastern countries during Paul’s time. Paul was encouraging them to greet one another in an affectionate manner, and treat each other with kindness and love. The use of the word “holy” here serves to remind us that Paul intended it as an expression of Christian affection and not as an improper contact.

While we probably won’t adopt a practice of kissing per se, it would serve us well to be holy in our approach to each other, and greet each other with the kindness and love befitting a Christian community…and not just at church.

When we do that, it will be easier to be cheerful, keep our spirits up, and keep our souls in good repair. And when that happens, the love and the peace of God will be with us for sure.

Be Cheerful by Michelle Robertson

Explorations

Exploring new places and interesting people is a very exciting thing. During the pandemic lockdowns, many of us longed to get out and see something … anything … new and different. I can remember the thrill of watching new programs like Wandavision on Disney+. The concept, the storyline, and the setting were a breath of fresh air every week, and gave me an hour of respite from the housebound constriction of life indoors. My mind was able to go to new places and it lifted me up.

Today we will embark on an exploration on a familiar topic: the Holy Spirit. When you focus your reading on just that one subject, you will begin to notice things that may have easily been overlooked in previous studies. As you read this story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, look just at the references to the Holy Spirit and take your focus away from the impending arrival of John the Baptizer. Reading it this way will give us clues about the nature of our triune God:

Luke 1 (Common English Bible)

One day Zechariah was serving as a priest before God because his priestly division was on duty. Following the customs of priestly service, he was chosen by lottery to go into the Lord’s sanctuary and burn incense. 10 All the people who gathered to worship were praying outside during this hour of incense offering.11 An angel from the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw the angel, he was startled and overcome with fear.

13 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah. Your prayers have been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will give birth to your son and you must name him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many people will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the Lord’s eyes. He must not drink wine and liquor. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth. 

Clue number one: the Holy Spirit was upon John at his conception. What does this tell us about the activity of God? That God is present at the moment we are conceived, giving us every good gift we will need for the rest of our lives.

Do you know what your spiritual gifts are? These are abilities that are born in you and should be used to serve God. Not everyone has your compassion! Not everyone has a desire to be welcoming and hospitable! Not everyone can sit in a finance committee meeting without falling asleep! (Guilty!) The things that you are “just naturally good at doing” are gifts of the Spirit.

Now we see what the Holy Spirit intended to do in John:

16 He will bring many Israelites back to the Lord their God. 

Surely the work of the Holy Spirit includes reclaiming those who had fallen away from worshipping the Lord. This is an important message today! Many of us began to worship online at the beginning of the pandemic when churches were closed. We found ourselves worshipping from the comfort of our couch and pajamas. Then we began to just worship the comfort of our couches and forgot to tune in. Suddenly weeks had passed, and the habit of connecting with our church faded away.

He will go forth before the Lord, equipped with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will turn the hearts of fathers back to their children, and he will turn the disobedient to righteous patterns of thinking. He will make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

This insight into the activity of the Spirit of God announced God’s intention for all his children. This Spirit, present in both the Old and New Testaments, is given to us to turn our hearts back to God and our families, and confronts our disobedient behavior. This Spirit draws us back to right thinking. This Spirit works to make us ready for a relationship with God.

What is the Holy Spirit telling you today? Have you put your need to worship on a back burner? Has laziness overtaken you? Are you being nudged to change your behavior? Is God calling you to do something new with your time?

May the Spirit convict us all of our need for God’s righteousness and align our thinking with Christ.

PS I will be taking a brief sabbatical for the next two weeks, and I have scheduled devotions to upload on their normal days. They will appear on my website and the At Water’s Edge Facebook and Twitter pages. But I won’t be able to share them on Facebook as I usually do. How can you help? You can share them on your page! As they say, sharing is caring! Thank you for your support and your love of Scripture. See ya real soon!

New Day Sunshine by Michelle Robertson

The Quintessentials

Raise your hand if you are a WordNerd. I am. One of my favorite words is “quintessential.” The dictionary defines this word as “perfectly typical or representative of a particular kind of person or thing.” For example, the quintessential dressy party attire for women is the LBD (little black dress). The quintessential fruit on a hot day is watermelon. Examples of ‘quintessential Americana’ include baseball and apple pie. And taxes. Don’t forget taxes.

Today we will look at a quintessential prayer, which of course is the “Lord’s Prayer”:

Matthew 6 (Common English Bible)

Pray like this:

Our Father who is in heaven, uphold the holiness of your name. 10 Bring in your kingdom so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven. 11 Give us the bread we need for today. 12 Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you, just as we also forgive those who have wronged us. 13 And don’t lead us into temptation,but rescue us from the evil one.

Jesus was teaching his disciples how to pray in anticipation of the time when he would leave the earth. He wanted them to know how to talk to God in his absence. Jesus begins with “pray like this,” so let’s break this beautiful quintessential prayer down.

  1. Pray to God, and God alone.
  2. Remind yourself of the power and holiness of God’s name.
  3. Ask for God’s kingdom to come: this will remind you of where your citizenship truly lies.
  4. Ask God to show you HIS will for your life, setting aside your own.
  5. Ask for what you need to sustain you for the day. Then ask again tomorrow.
  6. Ask for forgiveness.
  7. Offer forgiveness to those who have wronged you.
  8. Seek God’s help in resisting evil of every manner.

This succinct outline serves as a way to frame our every prayer, not just the “Lord’s Prayer.” If we follow this in our daily conversations with God, we will be set to receive all the daily blessings that God has to give us.

Probably one of the most important aspects of this prayer is the word “daily.” It is a reminder to us to seek God in the good times, the bad times, the boring times, and the lonely times. With prayer as our way of communicating with God, we can be assured that God is present in our every moment, mood, and need. Day after day, every day. Thanks be to God!

So when you pray, pray like that.

“For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. AMEN!”

Flowing Water by Bruce Winterstine

We Want to see Jesus

“Houston, we’ve had a problem.” These infamous words were uttered by Jim Lovell as a catastrophic explosion jeopardized the lives and mission of the crew of Apollo 13. The “large bang” they reported resulted in a mind-blowing example of ingenuity and innovation as the ground and space crews worked together to create a carbon dioxide filter and then operate and return their spacecraft with very little electrical power. Several agonizing days later, they miraculously splashed down safely as a captivated America watched and prayed.

Today’s passage harkens back to an earlier time of danger, when Jesus’ time on earth was drawing to its inevitable end. Greeks had come to see what all the fuss was about, and they approached Philip to ask to see Jesus. Like the Apollo mission, this passage begins with excited onlookers and high optimism:

John 12 (Common English Bible)

20 Some Greeks were among those who had come up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and made a request: “Sir, we want to see Jesus.” 22 Philip told Andrew, and Andrew and Philip told Jesus.

But rather than revel in the potential evangelism of the moment, Jesus begins to forecast what will be a downward trajectory that will define all of them in ways no one could suspect at the onset:

23 Jesus replied, “The time has come for the Human One to be glorified. 24 I assure you that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it can only be a single seed. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their lives will lose them, and those who hate their lives in this world will keep them forever. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me. Wherever I am, there my servant will also be. My Father will honor whoever serves me.

This “large bang” concerned a wheat grain falling to its death in order to bring forth life. Surely Jesus is projecting his own death on the cross in order to bring the resurrection to the people. The downward spiral continues with words about hating life in this world and losing life if it is loved too much.

But the tone changes when Jesus invited the listeners to follow him. Even if the path sloped down, Jesus promised to be with them and stated that the Father will honor all who follow Jesus.

Yet as he embarks on this path, his own heart is troubled. Listen to his prayer in this difficult time:

27 “Now I am deeply troubled. What should I say? ‘Father, save me from this time’? No, for this is the reason I have come to this time. 28 Father, glorify your name!”

Jesus’ prayer was one of assured obedience. He knew that the way he had to go would involve pain and hardship, yet his willingness to accomplish it is summed up with “Father, glorify your name!” In saying this, Jesus reminded us that in order to be glorified, i.e., “lifted up,” he would have to fall down hard first.

And God confirms it:

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

2The crowd standing there heard and said, “It’s thunder.” Others said, “An angel spoke to him.”

30 Jesus replied, “This voice wasn’t for my benefit but for yours.31 Now is the time for judgment of this world. Now this world’s ruler will be thrown out. 32 When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me.” (33 He said this to show how he was going to die.)

His prayer is answered right in front of the crowd, and he explained what will happen next.

34 The crowd responded, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Human One must be lifted up? Who is this Human One?”

35 Jesus replied, “The light is with you for only a little while. Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness don’t know where they are going.36 As long as you have the light, believe in the light so that you might become people whose lives are determined by the light.” After Jesus said these things, he went away and hid from them.

Are you on a downward trajectory right now? Do you believe that God can glorify your journey? Are you following Jesus even in this darkness? Ask God to lift you up.

Jesus is the light in your situation. If you stay on the path of obedience, he surely will lift you up and return you to solid ground. There is NO problem that he can’t overcome!

Thanks be to God.

Splashdown by Michelle Robertson