Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed
and establishes a town by crime!
Has not the LORD Almighty determined
that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire,
and that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing?
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the
glory of the LORD, as waters cover the sea.
God has established a world of perfect order, justice and peace. Nothing we do as humans changes the order of God’s creation and the fulfillment of God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. It is happening. It is being fulfilled. Anything we do as humans that isn’t fully surrendered to God’s way or order and justice causes us grief and suffering and pain in a multitude of ways. It is a suffering of all of creation. Many of those ways are so deeply ingrained in our lives and the world that we cannot even recognize them. It happens over generations and centuries; it is much more than we experience in a particular season. This is why God’s grace and mercy is so powerful and profound. We stand in need of great mercy. Every day.
The kingdom of God does not rest in the authority of a political entity or a person. We can recall the story of Pharaoh who was the ruler of Egypt. He had worldly authority and power over land and people. God intervened in Pharaoh’s life and in the life of the Israelites who were crying out to God for help. The power of Pharaoh was disrupted for the purposes of our Creator. God intervened in the life of Moses and got him involved…in what God was doing; not in the plans of Moses. Exodus 3:1-20 tells this story: https://bit.ly/2IhIZ4d
We can recall when Mary and Joseph were engaged to be married, God interrupted their plans with a specific call on their lives to be part of God’s coming to earth in the life of Jesus Christ. These were not the plans of Mary and Joseph. They were faithful people that God tapped for a specific time and moment in history. They accepted that call on their lives. This was not what they expected their marriage to be. The king ruling at the time, King Herod, was deeply threatened by the birth of Jesus and took all manner of measures to stop the events that were unfolding. It didn’t work. Matthew 1:18-20; 2:1-19 tells this story: https://bit.ly/3naC7F4
We can recall when Saul, a devout and educated religious leader, believed with all of his heart and mind that Jesus was not the Messiah and that he was even an enemy to the things of God. He did everything in his power and position to stop people who were sharing about Jesus. He arrested. He persecuted. He witnessed the stoning of Stephen who was killed because of his belief. And then…. the resurrected Christ met Saul on the road to Damascus and intervened in his life. Saul, who eventually took the name, Paul, planted churches in the name of Jesus Christ for the rest of his life. It was God’s plan and kingdom being fulfilled on earth…not the other way around. Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-20 tells this story: https://bit.ly/32x4WUe
These stories of our fellow human beings on a journey with God are throughout the ancient Scriptures. They are amazing stories! They teach us about ourselves…both our vulnerability and our strength. They teach us about God who created us with great love and intends for us to have lives that are a blessing in the world around us; lives that give glory and honor to God – no one else. The stories tell us of a constant unleashing and revealing of the Spirt of God upon the earth. We can be a big, giant mess – and God still reaches out and claims us.
As we humble ourselves on this journey and align our lives with God things begin to slowly and carefully fall into place. Peace comes. Probably not exactly in the way we planned. Definitely better than we imagined. A near headlong fall or sometimes a long stumble into the mercy and grace of our Creator. This is the spiritual journey. It is difficult to see as we are living through moments of particular challenge. We are shaped and pruned; we are humbled and strengthened. Our selfishness and sin and distraction are slowly chipped away as the generous love of Christ moves in and dwells within us. This is our journey; both painful and amazing!
We are experiencing a great upheaval. Many will say, “God is going to do this; God is going to do that.” Many are naming enemies and condemning people for their thoughts, actions, votes and mistakes. Some feel hope; some feel despair. Meanwhile COVID-19 visits homes and gatherings with no discretion whatsoever; reminding us that we are human beings with bodies that need care and health to thrive. Good grief! If you are feeling a little tense these days, that is a reasonable response. But there is also more.
While all of the polarization and blaming keeps us distracted and stressed, and COVID-19 has us masked up and careful, there is something else that persists among the people of God. We need only to give ourselves the gift of stopping to listen. Ancient words from a prophet still speak today:
But now, God’s Message,
the God who made you in the first place, Jacob,
the One who got you started, Israel:
“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
The Holy of Israel, your Savior. Isaiah 43:1-4 (THE MESSAGE)
What are we to do? We humble ourselves and ask our Creator for help. We let go of our thoughts and plans and get open to whatever God may choose to do with us and through us as a nation. We have been given a great privilege to live in this country. And…we have been given the greatest gift of all to be the children of God. We embrace the gift.
As you begin the week, just remember that the kingdom of God has already been established. The resurrected Christ sits on the throne. Maybe one of these stories from the ancient Scriptures will encourage you for whatever you are facing this week. You are not alone. The God of heaven is walking with you and will not leave you. Perhaps you will receive a glimpse of that truth today!
The Lord their God will save his people on that day
as a shepherd saves his flock.
They will sparkle in his land
like jewels in a crown.
How attractive and beautiful they will be!
Holy God, please walk with us. We ask for your help and wisdom throughout this week. We need you Lord, and we trust you completely. We yield our lives and plans to you again. Open our eyes to see your presence everywhere. Help us sparkle when we least expect it so we know it is from you. Amen.