When I became a mother, people naturally wanted to know about the baby. How much did she weigh? Who did she look like? How did we choose her name? After several months, I began to emerge from my sleep-deprived stupor and reenter the world, happy to get out of the house and interact with grown-ups about life outside the home.
Despite my desire for adult interaction, in the middle of a conversation my mind would wander back to my daughter. If she was with me, I wondered what her facial expressions meant. If she was with someone else, I would worry that she needed me to feed her or rock her to sleep. Sometimes I literally forgot what I was talking about midsentence or interrupted myself with a sidebar on spit-up or feeding schedules. My singular focus on the baby made me seem a bit crazy.
Paul also maintained a singular focus that changed his life and made him seem a little crazy to others. In fact, he wound up in jail for it on a number of occasions. Yet, his focus on the gospel of Jesus Christ motivated his endurance. Paul is so fixed on Jesus that there is no room in the spotlight for his chains. Paul does not dwell on what he must endure; rather, he endures persecution because he tightly grasps the promise of the resurrected Lord.
Paul’s concentration does not waver. He attends to the gospel with proclamation, with attempts to help others grasp it and to keep it constantly in their sight. Doing so doesn’t mean talking about it but actually going before God. If you set your sights on Jesus, Paul says, then you set your sights on ultimate faithfulness.
What is fighting for your attention right now?
Faithful God, I want to put you first. Help me to see you before all and in all, until you are all I see. Amen.
One might have expected Jeremiah to advise the exiles to maintain their independence and be ready to return to Judah. Instead, he tells them to settle in, to build and plant, to seek the welfare of Babylon, even to pray for its prosperity. The judging purposes of God call for extended exile and not impa- tient rebellion. In the story of the ten lepers in Luke, one returns to praise and thank Jesus for giving him health. Only then do we learn that he is a Samaritan. The ultimate outsider becomes the model of faith. Second Timothy bears witness to the awe- some character of God that always honors divine commitments, thereby appearing to humans full of surprises. For the psalmist, God merits the worship of all the earth.
• Read Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7. When have you found yourself in exile? How did you cope with the situation? What reminded you that God had not abandoned you?
• Read Psalm 66:1-12. When has the testing of God brought you out to “a spacious place”?
• Read 2 Timothy 2:8-15. How do you ready yourself to pres- ent yourself as one approved by God?
• Read Luke 17:11-19. The writer states that Jesus’ question, “Where are the other nine?,” invites us to receive God’s healing of illness and inner wounds. What in your life needs God’s healing touch?
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