Friday Scripture - Isaiah 61:4
They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
Friday Quote - Lesslie Newbigin
“The gospel is not just the illustration (even the best illustration) of an idea. It is the story of actions by which the human situation is irreversibly changed.”
Friday Thought -
One of the constant tensions I experience as I prepare for preaching or teaching is between how the scripture reveals what God is doing and what the scripture is demanding that we do. My first impulse is to jump right to trying to discern and present to you, what it is that the scripture is calling us to do and to be. I remember reading an article about Eugene Peterson in which he said that too often preachers focus on what the church should be doing instead of revealing and celebrating what God is doing.
Over the first three weeks of Advent I have continued to attempt to correct my proclivity to think about what I must do, what we must do as a result of the gospel and instead focus on what the stories are revealing about what God is doing. Most likely with modest success. So let's stop and review. Each of our prophetic texts, Jeremiah, Joel and now Isaiah, are indeed a call for the faithful to watch carefully for what the Lord is or will be doing. Jeremiah promises that God will renew our hearts, Joel, that God will pour out Spirit and Isaiah that God will anoint. Joel and Isaiah go well together because Isaiah spells out in poetic detail what happens when God pours out the Spirit. When God acts according to Isaiah, God breaks into the troubling and traumatic times with comfort and encouragement, forgiveness and hope, a new identity and with an invitation to new work and action.
Once again, I find myself resisting the temptation to jump into what we are supposed to do. But after all, in this week's scripture, after God comforts, encourages, forgives and re-names, God invites the people to 're-build,' 'restore,' and 'renew.' And it occurs to me that these three words begin with the prefix 're-' which means, 'again.' So our verse today shows us God's loving, healing, creative activity in the world and says to us that God acts again, and again, and again, to see the loving, healing and creation done. This is, I would suggest, what it means to be anointed. To be so caught up in this the persistence of God's loving and healing that we cannot help but join in. And so we find the balance. The gospel isn't just about what we are doing. It is primarily about what God is doing in the world. But the gospel is also about how we are inspired and empowered to join with God in God's incredible healing of creation.
Friday Explore - Luke 6:45-48
Friday Prayer - Persisting and Insisting God, we are grateful that you never grow discouraged and never give up on making us your people and all of creation the good that initially intended. Help us to find balance in our lives. When we resist action, encourage us. When we grow busy and stretched too thin, insist that we pause and rest and pray. In both, the pausing and practicing, renew our hearts and renew our world.