Wednesday Morning Devotion (Monuments)

Note:  Today’s devotional is taken from yesterday’s Running Toward the Goal, since I think it is so relevant.

18When Absalom was alive, he had set up a stone monument for himself in King’s Valley. He explained, “I don’t have any sons to keep my name alive.” He called it Absalom’s Monument, and that is the name it still has today.

2 Samuel 18:18 (CEV)

25But Jesus called the disciples together and said:

You know that foreign rulers like to order their people around. And their great leaders have full power over everyone they rule. 26But don’t act like them. If you want to be great, you must be the servant of all the others. 27And if you want to be first, you must be the slave of the rest. 28The Son of Man did not come to be a slave master, but a slave who will give his life to rescue many people.

Matthew 20:25-28 (CEV)

Absalom is such a sad, tragic figure in the Bible story. He always seems to choose the wrong way. He chooses the wrong way to get justice, the wrong way to gain popularity, and finally the wrong way to become king.

It reminds me of a poem by Christian Morgenstern about monuments:

Set a monument for me,
built of sugar, in the sea.

It will melt, of course, and make
briefly a sweet-water lake;

Meanwhile, fishes by the score
take surprised a sip or more

They, in various ports, will then
be, in turn, consumed by men.

This way I will join the chain
Of humanity again,
while were I of stone or steel,
just some pigeon ungenteel,
or perhaps a Ph.D.
would discharge his wit on me.

You can read his story in 2 Samuel chapters 13 through 20. Absalom wanted to be important. He wanted to be remembered. And he is remembered. But what a legacy!

Despite his difficulties, we remember Absalom’s father, King David, for his songs, his battles and his love of God.

We remember his brother Solomon for wisdom, wealth and building the temple, even though he too made his share of mistakes.

We remember Absalom for futile activities, ending with this monument of stone. But without a valuable legacy from his life, of what value was the stone?

It seems that often when we can’t get the right thing, we’ll try for any substitute. Absalom wanted, and pursued, love, respect and a legacy that would be remembered with favor. He got the poor substitute.

This is advent, and you may be wondering why I’m talking about Absalom.

What I really want to talk about is Jesus. It’s now about two thousand years after his birth, and he is remembered. Many of the things done in the name of Jesus will not be the kind of legacy he’d prefer. Commercialism, greed, envy and even idolatry. But in spite of all those years, he is still remembered.

He is remembered because he showed how to do it right.

He was born without any pomp and ceremony. He did nothing to attract attention. He lived a humble life working. He carried out a short ministry. He didn’t try to attract the crowds, but they came to him anyways, because they could see that here was a life that was making something to last. Finally, he died a horrible, shameful death. But the horror of that death couldn’t overcome the power of his life. He rose from the dead with power.

But you know what I find really remarkable? That cross, symbol of horror, agony, shame and humiliation became a monument of love. Jesus, through his life of love and service, overcame the horror of the death he died, even the horror of death itself, and changed a monument of horror into one of joy and peace.

Let me tell you—you don’t look at a cross today with anything like the same thoughts it would have brought forth in someone in Jesus’ day. Jesus transformed the nature of the monument, because his life of love was a greater monument than any piece of stone, or wood, or steel.

What is your monument today?

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