The Next Step

Tuesday, February 26, 2013 — Week of Lent 2 (Year One)

Emily Malbone Morgan, Prophetic Witness, 1937

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

(Book of Common Prayer, p. 952)

Psalms 61, 62 (morning) // 68:1-20 (21-23) 24-34 (evening)

Jeremiah 2:1-13

Romans 1:16-25

John 4:43-54

The two verses that open our reading from Romans summarize the whole letter. Paul speaks of his confidence in the power of the gospel, the good news. It is his vision that this message brings wholeness to all people — Jews first and now Gentiles. All that is necessary is active trust in this liberating message, living faithfully within the vision of that relationship. God is with us. Paul uses his favorite word for all of this — faith. His vision is faith; his active trust is faith; his responsive living is faith.

In the other readings we have examples of what faith is. John tells of Jesus’ return to his home district of Galilee. He is in Cana. A royal official, probably a retainer serving Herod Antipas, asks Jesus to come to his home to heal his son. He is from Capernaum, about 18 miles away. Jesus speaks, “Go; your son will live.”

The man believed Jesus. He acted with faith. He trusted what Jesus told him. Instead of insisting, “No. Jesus you must come with me,” he turned and began the long walk home. On the way his slaves met him to bring word that his child was recovering. The fever broke at the hour he had been speaking with Jesus.

We can’t know how completely the man was convinced that Jesus would heal his son. He may have been completely sure — 100%. Or he might have been doing that kind of mental wrestling that is so common in us — I believe, but I’m so afraid. …what if it is not true. Maybe it’s possible, but, oh, it might not be. What will happen? Can this man heal my son? Or is it just my desperation clinging to the impossible? Help.

We’re not told of his inner geography, but only of the direction of his feet. He hears Jesus’ word of hope — “Go; your son will live.” And he turns his feet in the direction of active trust. He begins the long walk home, not knowing that his son’s fever has just been relieved.

That is faith. It is trust. Our active trust is to take our next step as if the vision of Jesus were already accomplished. As if the world really is loved and saved. As if God is making all things new and reconciling everything to God’s own self. The next step in that direction is faith. Continuing to walk in that direction is faithfulness. Keeping the dream alive in the midst of our inevitable doubts is faith.

It comes down to a relationship. There was something in the relationship between the royal official and Jesus that gave him enough confidence to turn back toward home. Jesus invites us into such a relationship. Can we trust him? Can we put our confidence in him? Can we believe his story enough to take the next step in his direction, and then to keep moving that way despite whatever anxieties and fears threaten us? The rest of Paul’s letter and John’s gospel are written to encourage us to do just that.

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