Even as the metrics for COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are receding from the post-holiday spike, we are being warned that new variants of the virus are appearing. Even as vaccines are being rolled out, there still are problems with actually getting them into arms. Even after a tense, but peaceful inauguration of a new president and vice president, polarization and threats of violence continue. Even after stories and marches highlighted the racial inequity in our country, it seems that little has changed in how we respond to racism.
Certainly the people of Israel would understand our situation, specifically those of the 6th Century BC. Their world unraveled due to the Babylonian army. After the destruction of Jerusalem, the razing of the temple and the exile of many citizens, all that was “normal” was taken away. They had lost the physical focal point of their faith. Their lives and livelihoods were upended. The future they had envisioned was erased. Even after the Edict of Cyrus, which allowed some refugees to return to Judea, there was not an immediate revival of Jewish life in Jerusalem. Poverty continued. Life was hard.
It was to this situation that the prophet proclaimed the message found in this week’s Old Testament lection, Isaiah 40:21-31. Despite the desperate situation, God offered the displaced and despairing people a word of hope. It begins with a reminder. In the midst of their despair, the people had failed to remember the nature of God. God sits above the circle of the earth and stretches out the heavens like a curtain (v. 22). God is everlasting, the Creator of the ends of the earth and does not faint or grow weary (v. 28). God is powerful, creative, and eternal.
The prophet doesn’t stop there. While God is transcendent, God also is immanent. God gives power to the faint and strengthens the powerless (v.29). Even (perhaps especially) in the midst of a broken world, fractured lives and uncertain futures God is not aloof. “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (v. 31). God did not abandoned Israel and God has not abandoned us. Even now, God is working with redemptive creativity to offer us a new and bright future. We are a people of hope!
The key to the promise is to “wait” on the Lord. Advent is not so distant that we have forgotten that waiting is not passive, but preparatory. Faithful waiting is not idleness. Rather it is an open, scanning and listening posture. We wait because the God who acted in the past is still participating in the present and leading us into the future. We wait in faith and in hope.
I had the blessing of participate in a webinar where Gil Rendle offered insights into our present situation. He noted that the disruptions and instabilities we are experiencing place us in a crisis moment. When things are stable and going well, we ask institutional questions about efficiency and effectiveness. The goal is to determine how we do things right. However, in the midst of instability, we move to more missional questions. These are inquiries about purpose and outcomes. The missional question is whether we are doing the right things.
In this season of dislocation and loss of the familiar, we are freed, both individually and corporately, to dig deep and ask about structural change. As we do so, we must remember God not only reigns over history, but also acts within history. Listening to God and learning a new path leads to a new and better future. Thanks be to God.
If you would like to view past editions of Moments with Mike, follow this link: https://corridordistrictnc.org/category/from-the-ds/