Each of us is irreplaceable; each of us can be replaced. Both these statements are true, and both are important for us to remember as we look around at those we love. We know that they, and we, are mortal.
When Moses dies, the people mourn for thirty days. “Then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended” (esv). No doubt they miss him for the remainder of their lives. No doubt some find fault with Joshua, though he too is “full of the spirit of wisdom.” The Israelites have to learn what each of us has to learn again and again: Every death is final. The power and unique effect of Moses’ presence will not happen again.
Thirty days are given for mourning and then, though sorrow remains, it is time for the Israelites to turn their energies to tasks at hand. A harvest has to be gathered; babies are born; young people marry; old people need care. This, for some, is the hardest phase in a season of loss—return of “ordinary” life when ceremonies of commemoration give way to obligations, even those that may seem dreary and unrewarding.
“Behold, I will do a new thing,” (kjv) we read in Isaiah 43:19. We often read Isaiah’s words as an exuberant promise, but we do not always welcome a “new thing.” New things, new leaders, new relationships upset our routines, require new learning, and sometimes disappoint us in ways that compound grief. Faith that is “new every morning” is faith that nevertheless makes ready for the new thing to come and commits the old things to God even while weeping endures. Faith in God's promises turns us toward what God gives, trusting that God provides what we need most even as our hearts still ache.
God who makes all things new, renew us today, even in the midst of our losses. Help us to entrust all things, past and present, to your tender mercies and your boundless love. Amen.
The end of Deuteronomy completes the story of the life of Moses. Although he led the people out of Egypt, he is not allowed to enter the Promised Land because he lost his temper in the desert. The difficult task of leading the people back to the land will fall to Joshua. The psalmist calls out to God for mercy because the people have been suffering as a result of their disobedience. Paul defends himself against the charge that he has been preaching out of a desire for fame or money. The approval he seeks comes only from God. Jesus has yet another confrontation with religious leaders attempting to trick him. He avoids their schemes and emphasizes that love of God and love of neighbor summarize the entire law.
Read Deuteronomy 34:1-12. When has a leadership transition in your faith community been difficult for you? When has it been sacred?
Read Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17. How do you make God your dwelling place?
Read 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8. How can you strive to love those whom you have never met? How can you meet new people with love as siblings?
Read Matthew 22:34-46. How do you wrestle with the Bible? When have your questions strengthened your faith or revealed something new?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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