A Scripture Reflection originally published on my church's website (here modified) Texts: Psalms 113-114; Isaiah 40.1-11; Luke 1.46-56
I speak as a member of a congregation whose founder was Abraham, and the name of my rabbi is Moses. I speak as a person who was able to leave Warsaw, the city in which I was born, just six weeks before the disaster began. My destination was New York, it would have been Auschwitz or Treblinka. I am a brand plucked from the fire, in which my people was burned to death... I speak as a person who is often afraid and terribly alarmed lest God has turned away from us in disgust. – Abraham Joshua Heschel
Heschel, my friend, you are not alone. I too often find myself afraid, and terribly alarmed. I think God does look in disgust. Because even I often do, and I’m sure you did too. But about he giving up on us — the God of Hosea, Lamentations and Isaiah, what are the chances?
God does not stand outside the range of human suffering and sorrow. He is personally involved in, even stirred by, the conduct and fate of man. –Heschel, The Prophets
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem… You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” Isaiah 40: 1-2, 9
Undergirding the inexhaustible significance of the gospel is the reality, and the miracle, of who God is. It didn’t have to be this way. God could have been otherwise, an infinite range of alternatives to who he actually is. Reality could have been anything, from absolute nothingness, to all sorts of meaningless situations or worse. But God is Love. We simply cannot imagine a better scenario as the background to our existence. And yet, we love to entertain fantasies. We refuse to be at home in our own story, to be onboard with our creator. We want the forbidden fruit, to be like the nations, Baalism, syncretism, paganism, imperialism, nationalism, consumerism — a host of competing narratives and agendas, including the American Dream and all those alternative realities we so love to inhabit. But we cannot resist the Spirit and the Word of God forever. That thick cloud of witnesses. That multitude of voices gushing to us from the past like the sound of rushing waters.
This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:46-47).
Repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Doors wide open to return to our creator and embrace the very reason we exist. An invitation that reminds us of the price he had to pay to set us free. But free for what? To indulge in all the nonsense that led us astray and got us condemned in the first place? To go about the land of the living as if God didn’t have an agenda for his creation? No. As much creative freedom as the Lord has given us, his invitation is still from darkness to light, to share in his own life, which was his intention from the beginning.
To throw open the circulatory movement of the divine light and the divine relationships, and to take men and women, with the whole of creation, into the lifestream of the triune God: that is the meaning of creation, reconciliation and glorification. – Jürgen Moltmann
The fierce Love that fires the sun is making his home among us. And there’s no place to hide from the light of truth, the need for humility, and the call for justice. Reality is holy ground.
Image by Evan Woolery, used with permission from the author.