Pomp and Circumstance (Prayer Devotional for the week of April 13, 2014)

Graduation is just around the corner, and for the life of me, I cannot hum the “Pomp and Circumstance” graduation song off the top of my head. Every time I try to think of it, the tune of “Hail to the Chief” comes to mind. Funny enough, both songs are famous for fancy-schmancy ceremonies where people get all dressed up to go sit and listen to other people give speeches. In the former case, we gather together to celebrate academic achievements as graduates enter the auditorium to the “Pomp and Circumstance” march. In the latter example, we hear “Hail to the Chief” when the President arrives at an official function.

Today being Palm Sunday makes me think of another story about someone important coming to town. In John 12 and Mark 11, we read about Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, just days before he would be crucified. If you flip back a page to the end of Mark 10, you’ll notice that Jesus had just predicted his death for the third time, dealt with a couple of bickering disciples, and then oh-by-the-way, he healed a blind man.

Jesus was riding high on popularity (with the common-folk, that is; the religious leaders were itching to kill him), and he could have strolled into Jerusalem with all the bells and whistles of a presidential inauguration. Instead, he chose to ride a donkey and enter the city in a rather unremarkable manner. The crowds were still reeling from the amazing news of Lazarus’ recent resurrection (John 11; John 12:9-12), and people came out in droves to see the miracle-worker in person. They sang, “Hosanna!” and blessed him aloud as he came into Jerusalem.

Think about a typical presidential inauguration or State of the Union address. The President talks about his successes, agenda, and goals. I can’t think of any presidential speeches (at least not in my lifetime) where our country’s leader talked about what we should be prepared to do when he was no longer in office. Yet, that’s the approach Jesus took. He spoke candidly (and repeatedly) about his death and the promises of eternal life – about light and darkness, blindness and sight (see the rest of John 12).

I wonder how many of the fans who were shouting “Hosanna!” when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem stayed with the crowd when the cry turned to “Crucify him!” a few days later.

Blurry Vision (Prayer Devotional for the week of February 16, 2014)

If you don’t wear glasses, then you may not fully appreciate this example, but I’ll try to explain it. For a reference point, 20/20 means that you can see objects clearly from 20 feet away; this is normal. My uncorrected vision is between 20/800 and 20/900, which means objects that are clear to most people are as blurry to me as if they were almost three football fields away.

To put yourself in my shoes, it’s kind of like snapping a picture on your smartphone and editing it with the “soften” feature on max. The edges become hazy, details fade away, and even colors can blend together. Lacking clear vision throws everything out of whack.

I can relate to the imagery in verses like 2 Corinthians 5:7 (“We live by believing, not by seeing”), because I know first-hand what it’s like to not be able to see well. There are very few places I will venture without my glasses – namely, from my bedroom to the bathroom at night in the dark, since my glasses wouldn’t help then, anyway. I trust that I know the way, because it’s my home and I’ve lived there for years. During my day-to-day life, though, I rely on my glasses, because I need them to function. Without my sight, I would be severely hindered.

Case in point, I absolutely loathe team-building exercises that require you to close your eyes and fall backward (supposedly into the arms of your peers who will catch you) or do other sensory tricks. I prefer to stand on my own two feet and take in my surroundings with my own two eyes. (And, quite frankly, I don’t trust someone who is 120 lbs soaking wet to be strong enough to break my fall!)

And yet, God asks, “Do you trust me?” I know that he’ll catch me, but knowing it and putting it into action are two different things. How tempting it is to rely on my sight when I ought to rely on God … not my eyesight, but sight in the sense that *I* know better than him. Sometimes God’s vision for us is very clear, but at other times, pursuing him means being willing to take a step of faith, because it forces us to trust his guidance. As 1 Corinthians 13:12 reminds us: “Now we see only a dim likeness of things. It is as if we were seeing them in a mirror. But someday we will see clearly. We will see face to face. What I know now is not complete. But someday I will know completely, just as God knows me completely.” Will you trust his vision?