Jeremiah 26:11-16, 24; Psalm 69:15-16, 30-31, 33-34; Matthew 14:1-12
Words and Reality
“Let not the flood-waters overwhelm me, nor the abyss swallow me up.” Psalm 69:16.
Sometimes we can remember the exact day when we first understood words heard many times before. Maybe it was fear that had turned us away. Maybe the hubbub in our heads at last dialed down. Like rays of light that cut through clouds, their meaning was suddenly clear. Why are we often startled by what is real? Perhaps because we thought things should be different. The way forward is not easy but being closer to the truth does gladden our step.
The prophets, like scrawny street people, are easy to shun. This is not how messengers from a great God are supposed to act. Their words are disturbing and could dislodge a well-planned life. Why not put the menace to death? One king recognized truth in the words spoken by Jeremiah. He and his people vowed to repent. Herod took a different tack: he jailed John to silence his judgment. But planting a prisoner’s head onto a platter does not smother truth. Some leaders face their faults, get down on their knees, and seek to turn things around. Others cover up crimes and call it caring for people. When we know nothing greater than our own power, we are in trouble.
Living near a cliff spells danger. We fear the abyss that looms before us. Complacency is the abyss we don’t see. Sometimes it’s goodness that blocks our view. We settle into a life with family, friends, faith, jobs, health, freedom, and safety. Being comfortable can hem us in, like a gated community. Often we are grateful and give thanks. Some days we feel guilt about our blessings; but what good is guilt? Frustrated, we look out at an unjust world and neglect to build the bonds that cut across social lines so we can act together. The distance from blessed to complacent can be short. Seeing the abyss open up is not such a bad thing. We, too, are in trouble and can’t make it on our own.
By Jeanne Schuler