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  • Writer's pictureVicar Matt Doebler

Matins Devotion: December 12, 2022

Near the beginning of the epic novel Lonesome Dove, we’re introduced to a character named July Johnson—a quiet man who wants nothing more than to live peaceably in the small Arkansas town where he serves as the sheriff. And yet, shortly after we meet him, that dream is dashed. A traveling gambler rolls into town, accidentally shoots and kills the mayor, and flees to Texas. Now, July has to leave everything behind in order to chase after this chaos-causing stranger. July wasn’t looking for trouble, but he nevertheless finds himself embroiled in a crisis that he’s powerless to control.

Listen to how July’s predicament is described in the novel:

He felt apprehension so strongly that at one point it seemed to tighten his throat and nearly caused him to choke on a bite of corn bread. He felt he was being carried along through his life as a river might carry a chip. There seemed to be no way he could stop anything that was happening, although it all felt wrong.[1]

It’s easy on some days to look out at this world and feel the same way as July. To look out at the world and say to yourself, “It’s all so out of control. It’s all so wrong.” To feel as though you are powerless to do anything but let yourself be carried away by the world’s ungodliness. To wonder whether such a thing as order can ever be restored in the face of so much chaos.

Jude is writing his letter to believers who are asking the same questions. He’s writing to believers who have been dragged into chaos and confusion by false teachers and wicked men. Believers whose confident faith has been eroded by division and doubt. Believers who, like July Johnson, weren’t looking for trouble, but trouble sure seems to have found them.

That’s why Jude urges them—and us—to look beyond the present crisis—to lift our eyes away from the chaos of now and set our gaze on the promise of what is to come. To remember who we are. Three times in this short letter Jude reminds us that we are God’s beloved—those who are called by the Father, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, and kept in hope for Jesus Christ. That’s why he urges us not to give in to the forces that are pulling us downstream, but to contend—to fight—for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. Because that faith is our confession of the way things really are—despite how they look. When the trouble finds us and threatens to sweep us away, Jude reminds us to center our hope in him who is able to keep us from stumbling and present us blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy.

[1] McMurtry, Larry. The Lonesome Dove Series, Simon & Schuster, 2010.

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