Nothing Worth Doing– James Howell

The following is a devotional from James Howell the pastor of my home church Myers Park UMC in Charlotte N.C.

eMoses – nothing worth doing

Nov 3

Let us continue to reflect on Moses’ last day, high up on Mt. Pisgah, surveying the Promised Land. How many heroes through history have not been there for the climax of their own mission? Martin Luther King, Jr., on the night before his assassination, spoke eerily on this very passage in his famous sermon in Memphis (“We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop, and I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know that we as a people will get to the promised land, so I’m happy tonight. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord…”).

This loss, for the Israelites, is immense; but this is not the end for them! God provides new leaders. Perhaps there will never be another Moses, but there is a Joshua – and perhaps the loss of Moses “whom the Lord knew face to face” is a challenge to them, for now they perhaps need to deal with the Lord for themselves, directly, face to face.

For they too saw the Promise; they also got the glimpse of God’s vision for them. The question was, Would they keep wandering around in the wilderness forever, or muster some courage and go where God was leading them? Individual Christians have to answer this question, as do Churches, those lovely clumpings of Christians to whom God has entrusted the Promise today. Jesus worried we would get distracted, so he used the fascinating image of “treasure” – and did so to people who owned next to nothing! This must be Jesus’ least-heeded command: “Do not lay up treasure for yourselves on earth… but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven” (Matthew 6:19). Where is your treasure? Are you invested in God’s grand adventure? and even if you are, are you totally in? or scrimping around on the sidelines, never quite charging into the Promise of God?

Jim Wallis wrote that your budget is the most indicative moral document in your world; how you arrange your expenditures is the litmus test of virtue and vice. That’s strong… but he raises an important question. Perhaps better is what St. Thomas Aquinas wrote about money being the root of evil. Money, he said, is a “root” of something, and the roots nurture, feed, supply, bring life – but to what? What does your money nurture? and give new life to? With your time, your resources, your talent and your energy, are you living for yourself? or becoming part of something larger than just you? even, as was the case for Moses, part of something extending beyond your own death? “Nothing worth doing can be accomplished in a single lifetime – so we are saved by hope” (Reinhold Niebuhr). Are we people of hope? What kind of Church will our Church be?


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