Monday, December 11, 2023
Isaiah 61 is the measure of whether one has been anointed by the spirit of the Lord or not. Good news for the oppressed, not narrow views that suppress life and love; healing words that bind up the broken hearted, not harsh speech that hurts; liberating words that free one from the fear that God is not ultimately and completely “for us.” It does not mean there are no words of correction or constraint. Just the opposite. Right behavior flows from right relationship and right relationship flows from unconditional love. Or as Jesus said, “Perfect love casts out all fear” When we live more fully into the unconditional love of God we are less likely to withhold love from others or ourselves, which may actually be the harder of the two. The brokenhearted healed, the ones who mourn comforted, the faint of spirit made strong, are signs of the Spirit whose speech blesses the world with light and love and liberty so that good news for the oppressed is just as good for the oppressor.
Thursday, December 7, 2023
The beginning of Jesus’ story anticipates the end of our story which because of Jesus will not be as final as it otherwise might have been. And like the messenger who prepared Jesus’ way through the wilderness Jesus makes straight our crooked paths so that shouts of victory will drown out cries of lament. But the end of the salvation story does not deny the hard path walked by John or Jesus. Both paid dearly for their proclamation of the truth and while resurrection is certainly a happy ending to what would have otherwise been a tragic tale, the marks of suffering remain to remind us that it was the baptism of Jesus' death that forgave our sin. So we who benefit from John’s prophecy and baptized by the Holy Spirit are joined to Jesus’ death, walk on paths that are sometimes as hard and unyielding as the ones they walked, but because the Good News has walked all the world’s paths we never walk them alone.
Wednesday, December 6, 2023
So how are we to “regard the patience of the Lord as salvation” while worrying about “the rest of the world is toast thief in the night day of the Lord?” Even if we are confident of our reserved seat in the forever future we can hardly sit still when it comes to those for whom God’s infinite patience will one day run out. Lives of holiness and godliness are only holy and godly in so much as they are lived for the sake of those who do not know the peace and patience of God. And so God’s desire that none perish may dovetail with our own – at least for the “none” that we know – which is why waiting patiently is not the same as passively waiting.
Tuesday, December 5, 2023
We could use a long embrace with steadfast love and faithfulness and more public displays of affection between righteousness and peace. That’s because when God’s people live as “sin blotted out” forgiven folk, fortunes are restored, hearts rejoice and the land itself yields an increase. But when envy kisses bitter strife and hatred and selfish ambition embrace everyone suffers. And so God speaks peace by forgiving sin to turn hearts towards the pathway prepared by righteousness, which is always an attitude before it shows up as a behavior. It would be a lovely thing if the church could fall madly in love with righteousness and peace and act like a school girl or boy giddy with the first blush of young love. Imagine what we could accomplish by throwing caution to the wind and recklessly engaging in PDA of the sort that would make those outside the faith long for the same sort of relationship we have with each other and the God who whispers, "Peace."
Monday, December 4, 2023
“Comfort, comfort” is a doubly welcome word when it feels like you’ve paid double for whatever it was that required you to pay a penalty in the first place. In the same way being fed and gathered and carried and gently led is welcome relief to those who just like grass and flowers wither and fade. More often than not we are fully responsible for the painful predicament produced by our sin, but there is also a good bit of life’s consequences that operate outside the boundaries of cause and effect. I imagine there were a good number of those carted off to captivity in Babylon that could not trace a clear line between what they had done and what was being done to them. So in the middle of the captivity, when the memory of Jerusalem was fading, or worse when the memory of its destruction was like a recurring nightmare, the prophet speaks God’s words of hope and healing. “Comfort, comfort” is what was needed to endure the everyday abuse of captors who mockingly demanded, “sing us songs of Zion” as if joyful songs could be conjured up like some cheap parlor trick. God visits us in the worst of times to remind us that the best of times can be experienced when anticipated through hope. The valley of despair will be lifted; the mountain of desperation will be brought low, the uneven and rough places of sorrow and suffering will be made smooth because the word of the Lord is doubly consistent. “Comfort, comfort.”