18 Pentecost

Jer. 29:1, 4-7 [II Kgs. 5:1-3, 7-15c]
Ps. 66:1-11 [Ps. 111]
II Tim. 2:8-15
Luke 17:11-19

Loss and sorrow return to the mind in waves of grief and burning tears. “By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept, when we remembered you, O Zion. As for our harps, we hung them up on the trees in the midst of that land” (Ps. 137:2). Defeated and embittered, exiles from the holy land were abused yet further by their captors. “For those who led us away captive asked us for a song, and our oppressors called for mirth; ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion.’ How shall we sing the LORD’S song upon an alien soil?” (Ps. 137:1-4) And Jesus wept too, and his tear came not only from his eyes, but from the wounds of his flesh and the anguish of his soul. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world bound him and led him away in sorrow and unto death.

There are ways to cope and adjust. Through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord speaks, “to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon; ‘Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare’” (Jer. 29:4-7). This strategy will not dissolve all sorrow, but it provides a way to go on, and even to find a measure of happiness in the midst of trial.

This pattern is well known in scripture and verified often in personal experience. “For you, O God, have proved us; you have tried us just as silver is tried. You brought us into the snare; you laid heavy burdens upon our backs. You let our enemies ride over our heads; we went through fire and water; but you brought us out into a place of refreshment” (Ps. 66: 9-11). Words of hope are worth repeating: “You brought us out into a place of refreshment.” Trial, death, and resurrection are the pattern of Christian life, a theo-drama at work moment by moment as every sacred mystery of Christ repeats itself and unfolds in the life of disciples. “If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him” (II Pet. 2:11-12).

There is a time to hang up our harps. There is a time to weep. There is also a time to make our home in an alien land. We are in the world, but we are not, after all, of it. We are called to live in “reverent fear during the time of [our] exile” (I Pet. 1:17). “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul” (I Pet. 2:11). As resident aliens in this valley of tears, we make our way in hope.

But there is more than endurance in the race that is set before us. Sinful, sick, and alien, our cries do not go unheard. There is One who heals and forgives. Jesus Christ heals by his life and word. Made new in him, we have the possibility of giving praise and expressing gratitude. We can be “this foreigner,” a person who has endured much, found wholeness in Christ, and returned to give thanks and praise.

Look It Up: Luke 17:15-16

Think About It: Be the resident alien who gives praise and thanks, prostrating before the feet of Jesus.