Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Word for Today - Daily Office

Isaiah 52:7 How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger bringing good news, Breaking the news that all's well, proclaiming good times, announcing salvation, telling Zion, "Your God reigns!"

Rev. 21:22-24 But there was no sign of a Temple, for the Lord God—the Sovereign-Strong—and the Lamb are the Temple. The City doesn't need sun or moon for light. God's Glory is its light, the Lamb its lamp! The nations will walk in its light and earth's kings bring in their splendor. 

Matthew 12:18-21 Look well at my handpicked servant; I love him so much, take such delight in him. I've placed my Spirit on him; he'll decree justice to the nations. [19] But he won't yell, won't raise his voice; there'll be no commotion in the streets. [20] He won't walk over anyone's feelings, won't push you into a corner. Before you know it, his justice will triumph; [21] the mere sound of his name will signal hope, even among far-off unbelievers.

COMMENT: Today is Epiphany - celebrating God's revelation and salvation for all people. Again, the Daily Office has conjoined 3 texts that speak strongly and alternatively regarding the way of Jesus in this world. First we have Isaiah's gospel proclamation to people being delivered from exile - our God reigns. In verse 10 we are invited to see God's muscle... God's sleeve is rolled up and all the world can see God's saving action. We are called to exodus (to come out), a verse that I have always heard to mean separation from the world (don't hang out with sinners), but in this context, seems to operate not so much out of fear from contamination, but more out of a focus on the glory that lies ahead. I love how Peterson paraphrases verse 12: But you don't have to be in a hurry. You're not running from anybody! God is leading you out of here, and the God of Israel is also your rear guard. I know that I have lived too much of my spiritual life in fear, as if the whole point of salvation is running away from the evil influences of this world (only to find that some of the greatest evil we ever encounter lives in and among God's own people)... 

But the text invites us to see and think differently - we are not running "away from" in this journey of salvation, we are running "toward." Hence, the second text from Revelation is a grand picture of the beauty and glory awaiting us as we journey toward God - "Higher up and further in," as Lewis depicts the pilgrimage into New Narnia in The Last Battle, a vision of the new, redeemed creation that is "bigger on the inside than it is on the outside." 

The Matthew text is a quotation from one of the servant songs in Isaiah 42 - a text that speaks quite clearly about the alternative way of Jesus in this world - not pushy at all, but winning the world's heart through love.

So what is the "epiphany" that enlightens my mind this morning? It is simply this - as people called to follow the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we do not follow God or live our God-called lives out of fear. We do not need to be so hung up about "associating" with "sinners" (Jesus surely wasn't, but it sure seems like most of the church prefers the "holy huddle" over "getting into the game" of loving this ungodly world that God so loves). Isaiah even gives us a great image - of a God who not only goes before us, summoning us into this adventurous romance that God has with sinful humanity... but also that this same God has our back (rear guard) and will protect us and keep us safe as we do God's work in the world - keeping our focus on the prize that is set before us... and always walking, living, and loving in the Jesus' way - the way of love, the way of humility, the way of peace.

As I go to work today and live this vocation out before co-workers and clients, may my way be the way of the servant - bound to the Master in love and devotion, and unafraid of any evil that may be lurking around faces friendly or unfriendly - because "God is leading me out of here... and the God of Israel is my rear guard." Or to quote another great poet named John: "There is no fear in love, because perfect love casts out fear." Let me love God - and others - like that today!

Soli Deo gloria

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