Saturday, December 20, 2014

Beyond the Status Quo

As 2015 approaches, I have been reflecting the past several weeks on what God is saying to me personally, to our community, and to the wider church.  The question I have been wrestling with is this: “Is 2015 going to be another year of the status quo?”  Of course, God is always working within us through circumstances and our relationships.  We continue to be challenged by God’s overwhelming love and acceptance for us.  There is no doubt of his love for his children - ALL his children.  Yet I sense that as important as this message is for everyone who has ears to hear, the still small voice keeps calling like Aslan in the Narnia chronicles, “Come further up, come further in!”

On a larger scale, I feel that God has been and will be in the process of taking away the “familiar ways” of relating to him.  The worn-in traditions, routines, and patterns will steadily lose life.  But even the bright, fresh ideas that energize us for short seasons will fail as well.  I don’t believe he is calling the church to deconstruction or to rally around some new cause or to a flashy renewal, but rather to a season of repentance, rest, quietness, and trust.

In Isaiah 30, the prophet describes how God feels about Judah’s reliance on Egypt for military protection from their enemies.  It’s not a pleasant series of verses.  In essence, God says their trust in a foreign power to save them will utterly fail and potentially destroy them.  At the center of his complaint is their refusal to listen to his voice:

"They tell the seers, “Stop seeing visions!” They tell the prophets, “Don’t tell us what is right. Tell us nice things. Tell us lies. Forget all this gloom. Get off your narrow path. Stop telling us about your ‘Holy One of Israel.’” - Isaiah 30:10-11

Judah cannot hear what God has to say because they have stopped up their ears and are looking for help from a nation that once enslaved them.  As ludicrous as that sounds, it is no different than when the church relies on either traditionalism or innovation to maintain the status quo.  Maybe God has something richer in store beyond what has become comfortable and maintainable.  Getting there requires a prescription:

"This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.” - Isaiah 30:15

I believe this is God’s command for this season: repentance, rest, quietness, trust.  In other words, shut up.  God is telling us to stop slinging our opinions around on what ails the nation or world or families or the government and making ourselves look like fools.  Be willing to be wrong.  Be willing to admit that we don’t have all the answers.  Be willing to confess to the world that we have failed to follow the Way of Jesus.  Don’t just talk about repentance, lead in repentance by repenting! 

Then rest.  Resist the urge for quick solutions and feel good remedies for problems that span multiple generations.  Rest and be quiet before The Master.  And trust.  Trust that he knows what we really need.  Trust that the King of Kings is in charge of his Kingdom.  Trust that he sees every injustice, every place of pain in the world, every broken heart, every life cut short by disease, every person that feels unloved.  Trust, because we are a people of the cross and the healing it brings.  Trust, because we are a people of the resurrection and its promise of now and future abundance.

The warning at the end of Isaiah 30:15 should give us pause.  “But you would have none of it.”  We live in the age of instant gratification.  Pez dispenser faith.  Karma.  But that is not God’s Story.  He looks at the scope of human history and sets about the slow, patient work of forming a people for his glory and the world’s blessing.  Both of those must go together - glory and blessing.  Glory alone divorces itself from pain and reality.  Blessing alone forgets to sit at Jesus’ feet and worship.  But glory and blessing together are the home for which we were created.