Water is remarkable. While sometimes soft and soothing, its fearsome power is on display in ocean waves or during floods. But water’s most remarkable transformations come over time. If you visit a canyon, look carefully at a stream bed, or enter a cave, you will see how water has cut through sand and silt, dirt and roots, and even the deepest levels of bedrock. Sometimes quickly, sometimes almost imperceptibly, water shapes, forms, and changes its environment.
It is no wonder, then, that water imagery is so common in Judaism and Christianity. Through the prophecy of Amos, God gave this command: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (5:24). Ezekiel saw a river flowing from the temple that brought life to everything it touched (see Ezekiel 47). Through baptism, Christians enact our dying to self and rising in Christ with water.
Paul’s description of his “before and after,” caused by God’s overflowing grace, evokes images of God’s movement as water. When Jesus entered his life, Paul didn’t become someone different; rather, like a riverbed, his gifts were redirected as he was caught up in the flow of God’s love. He was still zealous; but rather than protecting traditional Judaism from supposed heretics, he poured himself into sharing the good news of abundant life for all. His eloquence and erudition were refocused. God’s love had flooded Paul’s life and redirected his skills, creating new channels to deliver grace and mercy to the world.
Salvation is a beautiful mystery, at once a flood of God’s grace and a lifetime journey in God’s channel of mercy.
God, thank you for the ways I experience your mercy and grace—at times like a flood, sweeping me up; at times like a soft, life-giving rain, nourishing my soul. Amen.
Jeremiah’s warning of coming judgment continues. The children of Israel have become foolish, have ignored God, and have become good mainly at doing evil. God is going to respond to this situation. The psalmist describes the state of all who are foolish: They deny God and follow their own corrupt desires, including oppressing the poor. The author of First Timothy, traditionally Paul, says that this was also his former way of life. He has been foolish and ignorant, a persecutor of the followers of Christ. In fact, he had been the worst of all sinners; yet Christ has shown him mercy, not judgment. Jesus tells two parables to reveal God’s heart. Rather than neglecting the ignorant, the foolish, and the lost, God searches to find each one of us.
Read Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28. How do your actions show others that you know God?
Read Psalm 14. When have you, like the psalmist, felt that no one knows God? How did you have faith that God would restore God’s people?
Read 1 Timothy 1:12-17. Recall a time when you felt unworthy of Christ’s full acceptance. How has that experience made you more grateful for Christ’s mercy?
Read Luke 15:1-10. In a world full of death and violence, how do you rejoice when God finds one lost person?
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