Tuesday, October 14, 2008

In the Dark No More

Exodus 32:1-14
Philippians 4:1-9
Matthew 22:1-14

2 Chronicles 7:14

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the current economic crisis has a lot of people running scared and is making a mockery of the election season in which should be a healthy debate and exchange of ideas about where we should go from here. Instead we are treated to a litany of excuses, accusations, truth spin, and finger-pointing, none of which gives the voters a very good idea of what is before us regardless of whom we elect. And we can’t really use what is being told to us now as to how we got here because no one is willing to step up to the plate and accept responsibility. All we can really be sure of at this point is that our days of living high on the hog by borrowing money we didn’t have in the first place instead of saving what little we do have are probably over. At least until the next time.

This may not be an entirely bad thing except for this: when we react out of fear to any situation rather than think it through with calm reasoning and good information, we can make things worse than they really are. And when we encounter and engage in such challenges without faith, there is nothing to lean on except politicians vying for a prominent, if dominant, place in our lives by trying to convince the frightened and uneducated masses that they alone have the answers and can solve all our problems. All we have to do in exchange for this peace of mind is to hand over to them our very souls.

And incidentally, it is my humble opinion that a certain group of pastors in recent news who have chosen to endorse political candidates from their respective pulpits as a matter of protest and challenge to IRS rules are more in sync with the world than with the kingdom of Heaven and are selling out their congregations for a headline. My dearest friends, we are nothing if not Kingdom People.

If this all sounds pretty drastic and overly dramatic, it is. Very much so. Because what we face today is no different than what has confronted not only Americans as a nation more than once but has also challenged man as a whole long before the US was even conceived of as a nation, and Sinai seems to be the crossroad for the faithful. Sad to say, however, we don’t seem to have learned much since then and will likely soon forget this current situation in only a couple of generations.

In Exodus 32 Moses has been away for forty days and nights. For over a month the people have waited, maybe patiently at first, for Moses to bring to them the word of the Lord. This Word will create and solidify a nation wholly called forth for one reason: to proclaim the Lord God to the nations. At this point I’m not even sure that the people are aware of what they are waiting for exactly, and this could partly help to explain their growing impatience, perhaps even fear.

Essentially the Israelites are in the dark as to where they are and where they will go from this point. And there is no indication that Moses told them that he would return in 40 days, so their anxiety is entirely understandable except that this much we should always be mindful of: it was their collective prayer (“I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and I have heard their cry …” Exodus 3:7) as a people that got them this far.

It may also be reasonably said that the people of Israel were completely in the dark as to their place in the story of human history but to be fair, there is no reason for them to believe that the story which has already begun to unfold will eternally be one of the greatest stories ever, a story unmatched on any level, a story that speaks of redemption in such a profound way as to be very nearly incomprehensible. So if the story is incomprehensible, how can it possibly be embraced? And if the story cannot be embraced, how can one be expected to even care, let alone understand?

Are we any better off now than the Hebrews were then? Our Christian theology teaches us that we were redeemed and set free by Christ’s blood at Calvary. Then He was raised from the grave to give us hope for the Resurrection, to show us life after death. After this He ascended into Heaven but will one day return. So far it’s been 2000 years. How much longer do we need to wait before we begin to lose our focus and our patience, and begin to show sings of anxiety and fear? How much longer before we finally succumb to other gods?

Far too many people believe this nation is going to Hades in a hamper anyway, so it would appear that the luster of final deliverance has long gone and that focus and patience are now far-away concepts because we are virtually lusting after politicians who make promises they cannot possibly keep and worldly riches that cannot possibly last. And yet – knowing this - we are more willing to believe them than to believe the Lord God.

Jesus encourages His followers to “seek” so that we may expect to “find”, so we have no one or nothing to blame if we find ourselves in the dark regarding the Lord’s place and intent in the story of humanity. And James urges us to “be patient … until the coming of the Lord [as] the farmer waits for the precious crop of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and late rains.” (5:7) In other words, the Lord will determine when the Harvest is ready. And perhaps like the farmer, the Lord will not declare the Harvest until the ENTIRE crop is ready, not just a portion of it.

How do we remain properly focused so that our patience does not wear thin and we lose our focus on the Divine and choose instead our own shiny, gold calves? By busying ourselves with prepping, caring for, and sustaining the crop until its season. We cannot separate the wheat from the weeds lest the good wheat be damaged by our efforts since we cannot always tell the difference (Matthew 13:24-30), so we focus on caring for the crop as a whole. The Lord alone will decide who is the wheat and who are the weeds in His time and by Himself; He asks only that we help to make the crop ready when the time of the Harvest comes. And, my dear friends, Kingdom People are not in the dark about this.

Covenant = promise. We are the people of the New Covenant. That means we live under a perpetual and eternal PROMISE the Lord has made to all of humanity. How can this not be GOOD NEWS?

The Wedding Feast is coming sooner than we might think. Let us be prepared to take our place at the table of the faithful so that we may not find our presence at the table of the Feast questioned.

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