Reflections: Thursday of Septuagesima

Today’s Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:24-10:5

Daily Lectionary: Job 13:1-12; John 6:1-21

And all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:4)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. I wish Paul didn’t talk about Christianity as a race. I’m exhausted. My vocations pull against each other. Excelling at one thing only means falling short somewhere else. “Discipline your body,” I’m told, but all the getting-things-done hacks only leave me with a neatly organized list of things I’ve thus far failed to do. “Run, that you may obtain the prize.” I’m barely limping. Everyone feels it, knows it won’t work, and still tries to do it anyway. Try harder to do the things you can’t seem to get done so you don’t go to hell and one day you’ll go to heaven. But that’s not what Paul is saying. That’s of the devil. 

Christianity cannot be reduced into productivity. It cannot be motivation, either by carrot or stick. If that’s all it is, you’re the one doing the work to save, not Jesus. It’s the not-Jesus path that so displeased God with the Israelites. That’s running aimlessly, as Paul warns against. It’s running with no goal. Get perfect grades, accomplish everything on the to-do list. Be so good at it nobody’s ever disappointed in you. But to what end? The chance to do it all again, but this time with even higher expectations?  

We do not run aimlessly. We discipline our bodies and keep them under control, lest after preaching to others lofty goals of success, we ourselves should be disqualified. Sooner or later the greatest overachievers fall off that wagon. We don’t run aimlessly. We run towards the Cross. 

There’s work to do. You’re not going to be perfect. It’s because you’re a sinner. Instead of trying to remedy that, lean not towards hopeless sloth, but run towards the Cross for mercy. The Rock that is Christ follows you and endures where you fail. It isn’t measured in your best getting better. It’s measured in your death and resurrection, in your Baptism, in your eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Jesus, and in His promise that the things that matter have never been your race to run. Jesus ran that race for you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Triune God, be Thou our stay; O let us perish never! Cleanse us from our sins, we pray, And grant us life forever. Keep us from the evil one; Uphold our faith most holy, And let us trust Thee solely With humble hearts and lowly. Let us put God’s armor on, With all true Christians running Our heav’nly race and shunning The devil’s wiles and cunning. Amen, amen! This be done; So sing we, “Alleluia!” (“Triune God, Be Thou Our Stay” LSB 505, st.1)

-Rev. Harrison Goodman is content executive for Higher Things.

Audio Reflections Speaker: Rev. Duane Bamsch

Discover new insights from each line of the Psalms in Engaging the Psalms: A Guide for Reflection and Prayer. Read, repeat, and return to the Lord as you walk through all 150 Psalms. Now available from Concordia Publishing House.