Fourth Sunday After Epiphany
|Deuteronomy 18:15-20||The Lord will send a prophet||444: O Young and Fearless Prophet
555: Forward Through the Ages
603: Come, Holy Ghost, Our Hearts Inspire
|Psalm 111||Understanding through following the Lord||440: Let There Be Light
525: We'll Understand It Better By and By
539: O Spirit of the Living God
|Mark 1:21-28||Christ casts out demons||152: I Sing the Almighty Power of
230: O Little Town of Bethlehem
|1 Corinthians 8:1-13||Don't cause others to stumble||562: Jesus, Lord, We Look to Thee
596: Blessed Jesus, at Thy Word
I travelled by air to Denver, Colorado for meetings downtown. At the conclusion of my business, I caught a shuttle back to the airport. The shuttle driver was friendly and started conversations with me and another passenger who was on board. At one point, the conversation turned very naturally toward skiing and other snow sports. Several years earlier, the driver had been skiing on a mountain. The slope ahead of him was steep, but generally clear of obstacles except for one thing. There was a tree right in the middle of the hill. He knew he didn't want to hit the tree, and he related how he had done everything he could to avoid hitting the tree, but as he skied down the hill, he ran straight into the tree. The impact broke his back. Although he recovered from his injuries, he was never as strong again, and never as willing to face the mountain.
His story reminded me of some important pointers I received many years ago when I was learning to ski. One of them mentioned "obstacles," just like the tree that the shuttle driver encountered. The advice was simple: focus on the path and the destination. Don't focus on the obstacle. We ski where we focus. If we focus on the path, that is where we ski and we stay safe. If we focus on the obstacle, that is still where we ski, and it can be painful.
The same advice applies to our lives as Christians. We will encounter obstacles to living a holy life every day. When that happens, our focus will determine our outcome. If we are focused on the obstacles, we are likely to hit them head on. Depending on the obstacle, we might slow down or we might be hurt. On the other hand, if we focus on Christ, we can move safely past obstacles. If we have to go through an obstacle, we can do so without fear because of our knowledge of joy in Christ.
This week features another hymn written by Charles Wesley. Moving from verse to verse, Wesley takes us through several aspects of our relationship with Christ. First is a focus on Christ--an acknowledgement of the lordship of Jesus, the leader under whom we know the rule of peace and the resolution of strife. With that essential ingredient in place, the church is able to follow the right path, to tear down its artificial, man-made barriers, to unite and care for one another, to live in righteousness, and ultimately to look upon the end of life on earth through spirit-filled eyes that see eternal joy because of our union with the saints in heaven. As you read the words, keep looking back to the first line of the hymn, "Jesus, Lord, we look to thee." Keep your focus there and seek new perspectives that guide you away from harm and into joy and safety.
|1. Jesus, Lord, we look to thee;
let us in thy name agree;
show thyself the Prince of Peace,
bid our strife forever cease.
|2. By thy reconciling love
every stumbling block remove;
each to each unite, endear;
come, and spread thy banner here.
|3. Make us of one heart and mind,
gentle, courteous, and kind,
lowly, meek, in thought and word,
altogether like our Lord.
|4. Let us for each other care,
each the other's burdens bear;
to thy church the pattern give,
show how true believers live.
|5. Free from anger and from pride,
let us thus in God abide;
all the depths of love express,
all the heights of holiness.
|6. Let us then with joy remove
to the family above;
on the wings of angels fly,
show how true believers die.
May we all focus on Christ, agree in Him, and know joy today and every day.
God bless you--
Lection at HymnSite.com
|Passages suggested are from The Revised Common Lectionary: Consultation on Common Texts (Abingdon Press, 1992) copyright © by the Consultation on Common Texts (CCT), P.O. Box 340003, Room 381, Nashville TN 37203-0003. Reprinted with permission of CCT.|