Devotion - July 1

Psalms 1-5, Proverbs 1, Luke 18

It’s time to call out the big dogs.

Prayer and Fasting.

We are 5 months now since learning of the first COVID deaths in the Seattle area. Five months. We thought then 6, maybe 8 weeks and we would be over the worst and returning to normal. This is one stubborn virus ...

Do you remember the story of the second string disciples? The starters had gone up the mountain with Jesus - those 9 other disciples in Jesus’ inner circle were hanging out at the base. Much later they would learn that Peter, James and John were experiencing epiphanies of glory up on that mountaintop. The second string, meanwhile, was doing their level headed best to keep the kingdom mission going at the base of the mountain.

Whatever else that involved, we know that in at least one instance it wasn’t working. A father had brought his son, suffering from demon possession, and this one was tenacious. Can you imagine how frustrated, and frankly over it, these guys must have been? Enough that when Jesus and the first string descend the mountain and approach they happen upon everyone arguing ...

Five months into COVID-19 is feeling decidedly like a second string discipleship experience — a tenacious resident evil - everyone arguing. In the story told by the gospel accounts Jesus, as expected, prevailed. Today, though, it is the response to the second stringers that came to my mind. “Why couldn’t we cast this one out?”, they asked Jesus.

“This one can only come out by prayer and fasting.” (Mk. 9) The big dogs in the spiritual arsenal! But then look at the story in Matthew. The issue as Matthew tells it is faith - even as small as a mustard seed moves mountains (Mt. 17). And maybe these aren’t such disparate recollections of Jesus’ answer. Because in the face of this stubborn pandemic, and the arguments, and the feeling of being a fairly ineffective bench warming disciple - prayer and fasting feel mustard seed tiny in the face of the problem.

What if we plant some mustard seeds as believers? What if we dedicate ourselves to intercessory prayer for rescue — maybe even try fasting as well as suggested by some of the ancient witnesses? There’s no shame in Jesus happening upon us and discovering we don’t have the capacity for a deliverance that only he can accomplish. But I’d hate for him to happen upon us not even trying the answer he gave those first followers trying their best ...
“But when the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)
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