A Devotion for Tuesday, March 31, 2020
2 Kings 4:18-37 (NRSV)
18 When the child was older, he went out one day to his father among the reapers. 19 He complained to his father, “Oh, my head, my head!” The father said to his servant, “Carry him to his mother.” 20 He carried him and brought him to his mother; the child sat on her lap until noon, and he died. 21 She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, closed the door on him, and left.
22 Then she called to her husband, and said, “Send me one of the servants and one of the donkeys, so that I may quickly go to the man of God and come back again.” 23 He said, “Why go to him today? It is neither new moon nor sabbath.” She said, “It will be all right.” 24 Then she saddled the donkey and said to her servant, “Urge the animal on; do not hold back for me unless I tell you.” 25 So she set out, and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel.
When the man of God saw her coming, he said to Gehazi his servant, “Look, there is the Shunammite woman; 26 run at once to meet her, and say to her, Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is the child all right?” She answered, “It is all right.” 27 When she came to the man of God at the mountain, she caught hold of his feet. Gehazi approached to push her away. But the man of God said, “Let her alone, for she is in bitter distress; the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me.”
28 Then she said, “Did I ask my lord for a son? Did I not say, Do not mislead me?” 29 He said to Gehazi, “Gird up your loins, and take my staff in your hand, and go. If you meet anyone, give no greeting, and if anyone greets you, do not answer; and lay my staff on the face of the child.” 30 Then the mother of the child said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave without you.” So he rose up and followed her.
31 Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the face of the child, but there was no sound or sign of life. He came back to meet him and told him, “The child has not awakened.” 32 When Elisha came into the house, he saw the child lying dead on his bed. 33 So he went in and closed the door on the two of them, and prayed to the Lord. 34 Then he got up on the bed and lay upon the child, putting his mouth upon his mouth, his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands; and while he lay bent over him, the flesh of the child became warm. 35 He got down, walked once to and fro in the room, then got up again and bent over him; the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes.
36 Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, “Call the Shunammite woman.” So he called her. When she came to him, he said, “Take your son.” 37 She came and fell at his feet, bowing to the ground; then she took her son and left.
Thoughts from “The Word in Season”
Go to God
“Is the child all right?” She answered, “It is all right.””
But the child was not all right. The boy that Elisha had told the woman she would bear in return for her hospitality to him lay dead from a sudden illness.
This was an extraordinary woman of faith. She knew swift action was needed, so she immediately set out to find Elisha. When she arrived, he asked about her son’s welfare. She answered, “It is all right” because she knew it would be. And she would settle for nothing less than the prophet himself returning with her. When he restored her son, we can only imagine the overwhelming moment in which this mother, exhausted with grief, weary from travel, collapsed at Elisha’s feet.
No challenge in life is too large or too small to take before God. Believe in God’s graciousness. Be filled with the wisdom to go to God when need arises, the persistence to demand justice, and the conviction in God’s never-ending mercy.
Prayer: Eternal God, give me confidence in your goodness and mercy in the midst of
all of life’s storms. Amen.
Ephesians 2:1-10 (NRSV)
1 You were dead through the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. 3 All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
In the midst of growing numbers of deaths due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we hear Paul’s words, “even when we were dead through our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ.” There are two different “deaths” here. The first is the one dealing with our human mortality. The second has to do with our life both now, and beyond this mortal human life – the life that is defined by our connection to, and relationship with, God. We can’t change our human mortality, it will confront us at some point. What Paul – and God – are concerned with is who we are as God’s people, whether this mortal life is all there is for us (which it is not) – and how we can truly live, whether here and now, or in the life to come.
In our human mortality, medicine, healthy living and a bit of luck can see us to a ripe old age – but that’s it. We are mortal – meaning there’s an end to this life. Life in God, in the grace and mercy we have in Christ Jesus, has the promise of immortality, of a new life that transcends our mortal life’s end. It’s a gift, from God. That’s it. Believe, receive, and that’s it. Now it’s human nature (and, honestly, American/European mindset) to say “What’s the catch?” “What do I really need to do to earn eternal life, earn God’s favor?” The answer – as difficult as it is to believe in our modern times – is nothing – nothing more than believe, and receive. You see, the gift is ours “even when we were dead through our trespasses.”
As this pandemic spreads and grows, some are going to say, or at least ask the question of whether this is God getting back at us for all the sinful, evil ways of our world. But our God is not one who desires our death, but rather that we would turn to God and live. Our God is one who forgives “seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:22, NKJV) – or as much as it takes. Our God is one who comes among us to heal, and forgive, and then to die on a cross to make the proclamation that in Him there is life that conquers death – through His great love for us. Only Jesus does that, giving himself up, for us. It’s no longer the Law (what we do) that determines our future, it’s Jesus and the cross. And in that grace and mercy, in that love and promise, we have hope, even when our mortal lives feel threatened. So we can live without fear, and be a light of grace for others.
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
– 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 (NRSV)
Blessings & Peace,
Want to do something positive in this uncertain, anxious time?
Write an encouraging card, note or letter for our elderly friends at Senior Star (there’s a bin in the breezeway where you can place them).
Sign up to ring the church bells to send the message to our community that God is with us in the midst of this time, and that we at Messiah are praying for those who are affected, and for an end to the pandemic.
For those affected in any way by the Covid-19 pandemic.
For our congregation in this time of separation, that we would yet be held together.