28NOV2011—The Challenge in the Wait:
Random thoughts sparked by Amos 2:6-16, my life, modern culture, and a writing by Christoph Blumhardt…
Images of hummingbirds and honey bees flitting from flower to flower fill my mind this morning as I consider the ways in which we “wait” for and “prepare” for the return and coming kingdom of our Lord. I think “busyness” and temporal attractions are like flickering LED’s that keep us distracted from the promise of and waiting for the true Light. We settle for a carnival-like facsimile of God’s grand promise, a scratch-n-sniff scent of excitement that quickly fades to the joyless “no-smell” fake that it is.
Apathy is disturbingly deceptive in its creep. It is something like slowing metabolism. There was a time that I was able to eat almost whatever I wanted in almost any quantity my body would hold. It seemed like I burned ten-thousand calories a day even if I spent that time in a reclining chair. The sneaky creep of advancing years caught me unawares; the lusty appetite of my youth had made a homestead in the neighborhood of my brain where habits reside while my good friend metabolism moved to the countryside of my fond memories for retirement…without announcing the move. One morning I awakened with body aches previously unknown to me. It was as if I had slept for fifteen years and during my sleep someone had put me on a “fat intravenous feed.” What happened? My memory tells me I’m still a lean mean metabolism machine, but a high-intensity workout of forty-five minutes only yields a scant 350 calorie burn. I used to burn 2000 calories with a walk to the mailbox. What happened? The saddest aspect of this whole deception is realized in photos, videos, and the occasional mirror. As long as I don’t see these “reflections of me” I believe the lie of the memory; I’m still young, I still have my hair…and it’s not gray, I’m still thin and muscular, agile and athletic. The reality is none of these are true; all I have to do is take an honest look in the mirror or see myself in photos or videos. Apathy creeps upon us like age and slowing metabolism will; it is relentless and ruthless too.
I don’t want slowed by age, overweight, or apathy to be my normal. I don’t want to settle for less than God has intended. Just as it takes more effort to remain fit with a slowing metabolism, it requires increased diligence to remain alert and ready for God’s coming. It has been almost two-thousand years since he said he was coming again soon. Soon? Really? Our brains tell us it is unlikely it will happen in this lifetime… and so we let our guard down a bit and the creep begins. We console ourselves with shiny toys and creature comforts for knowingly letting our guard down, avoiding “mirrors” and refusing to have our “pictures” taken, so we don’t feel guilty of being stricken with the “creep.” This is our temporal reward for staying alert “back in the day.” Have we prostituted our souls for the momentary gratification of things having the shelf life of a cut flower that have been gained through the expense of another? No… I can’t or don’t want to think about these things; it is best for me to fly off to another flower. I’m busy burning calories and takes lots of fuel to keep up this frenzied pace. Wait…what?
Basically, as soon as it is a matter of putting God’s service into our daily life, we weak human beings don’t really know, or want to know, what is true. We live in a mass of wrongs and untruths, and they surround us as a dark, dark night. Not even in the most flagrant things do we manage to break through. We are hardly repelled anymore by murder, adultery, or theft. We now have customs and laws under whose protection one person can kill another. We have lifestyles of pleasure that poison everything way beyond human help. We have customs of acquisitiveness by which some people live at the expense of others. What can be done to help? So many, many people do all sorts of things that are wrong without having the remotest idea that they are doing so. Good people, many of them highly esteemed, people with good hearts, try to do good and yet they fail to put a stop to the wrongs that confront them, whether in their own lives or in the lives of others. Anyone whose attention is fixed on the coming reign of God and who wants to see a change brought about in God’s house will become more and more aware that a universal wrongness of things is pulled over us like a choking, suffocating blanket. He will know that the thing to do is to take hold of God’s hand so that there is some effect on this night, so that at least a few areas are made receptive to God’s truth and justice and are made ready to receive God himself. But to do this work we have to have a light. With this light we can then illuminate every corner where we have some work to do. Then we will see where the garbage is, where there is work to be done.
This is really very hard work. For when someone holds a light in his hand and shines it here and there, he is immediately asked, “What business have you here?” So gradually many people let their light go out again. It is too awkward, too inconvenient to keep holding up a light and showing people the dirt and saying, “There, clean that up; the way you are doing things now isn’t right in God’s eyes. Cut off your hand! Tear out your eye! Cut off your foot!” – as Jesus says, figuratively, when there is something about the hand or eye or foot that stands in God’s way.
That is what is meant by letting your light shine. A light has a purpose; a light ought to shine into our conditions so that we can see what needs to be done and set our hand to it and clean it up. Jesus, with this light, was not well received, and neither were his apostles. “If only that light weren’t there,” people said. In the times of the early church, the Christians were accused of causing confusion in the world, of undermining law and religion, and they were bitterly persecuted for this. The truth – the fact that people’s lives are not right – is too much for most people to grasp. It seems like a crime to them to think that things they consider quite all right ought to be changed. The sacrifice of Christ, which makes it possible for a new humanity to arise in the resurrection – this sacrifice appears as foolishness. So people turn finally to this Sunday religion. Going to worship is supposed to be enough. God is supposed to be satisfied with it and do without the weekday work. But let us not give the name of worship, or service to God, only to things that benefit us, only to things that soothe our own souls. You are allowed to have much; God is kind. He lets you make many demands on him for your salvation. But then it should also occur to you to let God make demands on you, to let yourself be bound and led to places where you would never go of your own accord. Yes, I will let the light shine for me, but I will do so only to show where there is work to be done for God, where my own happiness does not come into the picture.
Action in Waiting by Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt – Download a free copy of the e-book here.
“Copyright 2011 by The Plough Publishing House. Used with permission.”
Lord whose light shines in darkness, Have mercy on us
Christ whose birth gives hope to all creation, Have mercy on us
Lord whose advent brings joy and love, Grant us peace