The Holy wayWhere's the Faith? Thursday, December 8th, 2011
Social Chaos: Where's the Faith?
I’d like you to think about God’s promised action in the wilderness. The wilderness is a rocky, dry and barren space. In the same day, temperatures may vary from a blazing 100 degrees to nearly freezing at night. Food and water are scarce. Wild beasts and even bandits prowl around seeking to attack unsuspecting travelers. The wilderness can be a very scary and lonely space. In the wilderness spaces of our lives, one can feel abandoned even by God.
In the book of Isaiah, we read how the people have been living as exiles in Babylon, approximately 500 miles from their homeland. The mighty Babylonian army had conquered Judah, shattered the city walls of Jerusalem and left the Jerusalem temple in ruins. As was the custom in those days, conquering armies would relocate thousands of influential citizens in order to prevent any organized rebellion. The only way home was through this vast, frightening and overwhelming wilderness.
Sometimes it seems as if we also are living in a wilderness – a barren desert bereft of all hope for deliverance. Our families and friends don’t understand our fears. Our world is in chaos. If anything can go wrong, it does. Even the little things of daily life become insurmountable obstacles for our fainting hearts and feeble knees.
Exhausted and frustrated with the “busy-ness” of the season, some just want to crawl into bed and pull up the covers until Jan. 2. “Is it over, yet?” In our wilderness, there’s never enough time, never enough money, never enough patience and never enough love. Our hands are weak. Our knees have grown feeble. Our hearts have become so fearful that a way out seems almost impossible.
Where are those scary, wilderness spaces deep inside your souls? We all have them. What is it that traps you in the prison of doubt and broken dreams? What blinds your eyes from seeing God’s presence or stops your ears from hearing God’s promise?
God does not promise to obliterate the wilderness. God never promises a magical, science-fiction-like teleportation from Babylonian captivity to Jerusalem without the people ever setting foot on any part of the 500 mile journey back home through the wilderness. Neither does God promise a magic elimination of our wilderness experience.
Instead, God promises a new way, a holy way, right through the core of the wilderness itself by 1) changing the very wilderness itself, 2) changing the way God’s people perceive the wilderness, and 3) transforming the way God’s people behave in the wilderness. Let’s look at them.
First, God changes the wilderness. Isaiah says, “Waters and streams shall nourish the dry land.” Wilderness exists for everyone. God does not take it away. Yet, God changes its sheer terror and desolation by entering into it with us. Scripture reminds us that God’s presence and guidance are revealed in wilderness. God finds Moses “beyond the wilderness” and guides Moses into a mission of delivering the people from bondage to the Promised Land.
The Bible is filled with stories of how God changes the wilderness by being present within it. Remember that. God does not eliminate wilderness from our lives. God changes those scary spaces by being present within them.
Second, God not only changes the wilderness spaces themselves, God opens blind eyes that just can’t seem to see God’s presence in those times of overwhelming fear, anxiety, confusion and doubt. God opens ears so stopped up that they are deaf to God’s word of promise and guidance. God empowers those who view themselves as trapped in their own wilderness; disabled by their own fears. To those whose voices can only speak pessimistic, contagious, doom and gloom about their own wilderness, God will give songs of joy.
Those chaotic and confusing spaces still exist. However, God changes the way we see and experience them; from hopeless and helpless, to potential and possibility; from exhaustion and despair, to renewed energy and anticipation.
Look again with new eyes at your own wilderness spaces. Open your eyes to see God’s presence and guidance on the holy journey of life.
Third, God’s holy way includes changing behavior as we travel. Isaiah describes that preparation with these words, “Strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, ‘Be strong, do not fear!’ Here is your God come to save you.”
Well, that’s easier said than done, right? Alone, yes; without God’s promise of safety from those who would hurt us; impossible, without God’s power to change fear into rejoicing.
Of course, life is tough. But God did, does and promises to continue to be a guiding, loving presence in our wilderness.
As you travel, remember God’s refreshing splash of love. Hear again, in the words of Isaiah, God’s promise, “Everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”
I invite you to attend our traditional Christmas Eve candlelight services at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., Dec. 24. See themetchurch.org for more info.
Rev. Dan Koeshall is the Senior Pastor at The Metropolitan Community Church (The Met) in San Diego, California, themetchurch.org.
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