Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Wednesday in the 2nd Week of Lent
Against The Flow

Readings: Jeremiah 18:18-20; Psalm 31:5-6, 14, 15-16; Matthew 20:17-28

Sci-fi flicks often seek to defy the notion that time and tide wait for no man. In Déjà Vu, for example, Denzel Washington is a detective who travels back in time to save a boatload of men, women and children, including a beautiful young lady, from being blown up by a terrorist in New Orleans. The movie plays up Denzel’s dedication to his job, as well as the mysterious chemistry between him and the damsel in distress. So passionate is Denzel that he goes far beyond the call of duty, and daringly defies the flow of time and tide, at the risk of his own life. In the process, he does indeed lose his life. And yet all is not lost. We’ll spare you the details about how and why, in case there are some who have yet to watch the movie.

We encounter something of the same scenario in each of the readings today. In dangerous times, both Jeremiah and Jesus share a similar passion for the word and will of God. Both are passionate enough to run counter to the direction in which everyone else is going.

Jeremiah lives and ministers in a time of exile, when even the great city of Jerusalem is destroyed by the Babylonians. Yet he refuses to preach only what the people wish to hear. Rather, he urges them on to the repentance that the Lord desires. Not even when his detractors persecute him and plot to kill him does he cease or desist. He continues to swim against the tide at the risk of his life.

Jesus, too, lives in a dangerous time. Politically, his people are again living under foreign occupation. And, not too far into the future, the great city of Jerusalem will once more be destroyed, this time by the Romans. But the danger that Jesus braves is of a far greater depth and scope. He seeks to save the whole universe from the consequences of sin. And, in contrast to the disciples, who continue, in a time of crisis, to run in the direction of selfish ambition, Jesus instead undertakes a death-defying journey to Jerusalem. By thus choosing to serve instead of to be served, by giving his life as a ransom for many, Jesus runs counter to the direction in which the rest of the world is moving. And, in so doing, although he loses his life on the cross, he also ultimately regains it for the life of the world.

For us, too, who profess to be followers of Christ, are we not also called to do the same? When we look carefully around and within us, especially with eyes purified by our Lenten discipline, do we not see that, like Jeremiah and Jesus, we too live in dangerous times? Do we not see that we too are called to swim against the tide, to run counter to the direction in which everyone else is going, to give of ourselves in humble service to our neighbor?

In the respective crises, in which each of us may find ourselves, how are we being invited to go against the flow today?


  1. To be a contrarian in today's increasingly secularized world takes much courage. When is a prophet ever accepted in his own country? How do we go against the tide without great risk to health and life? It begs more questions than provide answers. In the face of consumerism, individualism, liberalism, is GOD with us to anchor to what is true and real? Today's readings bring comfort.

  2. I fondly remember a hymn "Turning the world upside down" that cuts me to the bone whenever I sing it because it starkly summarizes the core of our Christian belief.

    In creative thinking, we hear the by now cliched phrase "Think out of the box" because it is precisely in so doing that we can discover something new, something never before contemplated. And the ensuing exclamation "Aha" signals the birth of a new state of consciousness, a new existence.

    To think out of the box, to swim against the current, to go against the grain require resolve and a firm belief in what we hold dear. It is much more natural (and comfortable) to be 'one of the guys' because human nature is such we crave to be accepted and even admired. When one preaches what people wish to hear, one doesn't lose half the congregation the following weekend.

    This Lent, by divine grace, let us all resolve to stand up to our Christian conviction.