Daily reading: 18 February
Neighbours, close and far away.
Something to read
See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity
- Deuteronomy 30:15 from full reading Deuteronomy 30: 15-20.
'If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me'
- Luke 9:23 from full reading Luke 9: 22-25.
Something to think about
In our reading from Deuteronomy (verse 15) God promised His people in the wilderness that if they obeyed His commandments and followed His ways then they would have ‘life and prosperity’ in the land to which He was soon going to lead them. On the other hand they were warned that ‘if your heart turns away… you shall perish you shall not live long in the land’ (verse 17).
Today we need to be careful with this promise, remembering that it was given at a specific time to a particular people whom God had chosen to be his people so as to bring light to the nations and from whom, ultimately, the Messiah would come. So it is quite mistaken when promises such as this are used today to say that if you just follow God then life will go well for you and you will prosper. When I think of the very many godly but materially poor people whom I’ve had the privilege to meet around the world it keeps my thinking straight on this.
For example, on the 1st anniversary of the terrible earthquake which hit Haiti on January 2010, I had the privilege of addressing a crowd of perhaps 50,000 people in the centre of Port-au Prince. It was one year since over 200,000 people had died and a million people were still homeless but Christians gathered amidst the destruction around a huge stage which held a banner declaring (in French) ‘Let’s celebrate life.’
For many hours people stood in the hot sun worshipping God, praying and listening to speakers. There was a very real recognition of the pain that they still experienced but an absolute determination to celebrate life, to trust in God, and to recommit to following Him. I spent the first hour or two of this incredible gathering weeping with a combination of joy and shame.
Turning back to God’s people in Deuteronomy, we see that they were given a choice, ‘choose life so that you and your descendants may live (verse 9). As I read that verse today it strikes me that we in the richest part of the world have a choice to make and our choices will affect how others in the poorer parts of the world will live. This is particularly true with regard to climate justice, and the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine – what we choose will decide whether or not people in the poorest parts of the world prosper or face destruction.
In our Gospel reading Jesus said: 'If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me' (verse 23). I would suggest that for us in more developed countries today a part of what it means to take up our cross is to reduce our consumption, our pollution and our level of development for the sake of those who will perish if we don’t.
Something to pray
Lord help us never to forget that the way we live doesn’t just affect us but affects others. Let us never forget that part of following you is to constantly ask ourselves how the way we live impacts on our neighbours both close and far away. In our daily lifestyle help us to choose life so that we and others may live.
Today's contribution is a slightly amended version of the reflection shared by Rev Dr Laurence Graham, a former President of the Methodist Church in Ireland for last year's lent journey. He was, at the time of writing, Superintendent Minister of Dublin Central Mission and General Secretary of Irish Methodist World Mission Partnership.
Published on 18 February 2021