Whether you turn to the right or to the left,

your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,

“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

God is slow

I have been noticing lately that the pace around our church is ... well, picking up!

Last night, after a full day's work, I arrived home out of breath, a bit frantic, wound up, anxious to get to the next day so I could plow my way through my to-do list in the hopes of getting "caught up," whatever that is. It did not feel good, and I had a pretty hard time drifting off to sleep. My mind was full and whirling with thoughts.

And then, in my reading this morning, I was struck by this quote from a 19th century writer named Frederick Faber:

"In the spiritual life God chooses to try our patience first of all by his slowness. He is slow; we are swift and precipitate. It is because we are but for a time, and he has been for eternity ... There is something greatly overawing in the extreme slowness of God. Let it overshadow your souls, but let it not disquiet them. We must wait for God, long, meekly, in the wind and the dark. Wait, and He will come. He never comes to those who do not wait. He does not go their road. When he comes, go with him, but go slowly, fall a little behind; when he quickens his pace, be sure of it, before you quicken yours. But when he slackens, slacken at once: and do not be slow only, but silent, very silent, for he is God."

Well, then.

That puts all my frantic human energy in its place, doesn't it?

If God is slow, perhaps I should just settle down a bit, trust his pace, and like Faber says ... "Do  not be slow only, but silent, very silent, for he is God."

Amen.

 

There is no one but us ...

In the Old Testament, a trio of people are often cited as deserving special protections from God and God’s people … The fatherless, the widow, the orphan. Often, the foreigner is added to this list.

God knew these people were at risk in the society of the Old Testament … at risk to be marginalized, neglected, oppressed, victimized, even killed.

And so God commanded his people to take special care of these particular people in their midst. He gave special commandments, even made special rules that protected them, gave them chances to enter mainstream society again, helped them escape the noose of generational poverty, protected them from oppression and violence.

And these rules spoke to God’s people and said, “I care for this group of people in a special way, and if you follow me, you must care for them, too!”

Who are the marginalized among us today?

Might they not fit into this same descriptive trio (or quartet)? The fatherless, the widow, the orphan, the foreigner.

It matters not your political persuasion, if you are a follower of God, you are to live in such a way that you protect the marginalized, speak up for them, watch out for them, care for them, serve them, give to them, pray for them.

Often, when confronted with the marginalized in our midst, we hope for someone else to help them.

Annie Dillard addresses this common deferral of responsibility:

There is no one but us. There is no one to send, not a clean hand or a pure heart on the face of the earth or in the earth --- only us … unfit, not yet ready, having each of us chosen wrongly, made a false start, yielded to impulse and the tangled comfort of pleasures, and grown exhausted, unable to seek the thread, weak, and uninvolved. But there is no one but us. There has never been.”

There is no one but us.

God seeks ...

We are told that if we seek God with all our heart, God will be found. (Jeremiah 29:13)

This is a beautiful image - the human soul desiring God and seeking after him with all that is within us. And God, we are promised, wants to be found, and even promises to be found. A strong motivating force.

But have you ever considered that God, too, is a seeker? He is seeking after us ...

The parables in Luke 15 play this out:

The Shepherd seeking after the lost sheep ...

The Woman seeking after the lost coin ...

The Father watching and waiting (seeking, even!) for the lost son ...

God is seeking us.

Simon Tugwell puts words to this stunning truth:

"So long as we imagine it is we who have to look for God, we must often lose heart. But it is the other way around - He is looking for us."

When I find myself feeling far from God, when I am not a very good seeker, when the "far country" I often live in feels too far, I rest in this heart-stopping truth - the God who is called "the hound of heaven" never, ever stops seeking after me.

He never, ever stops seeking after you.

Together ...

Do you ever read a passage from Scripture that feels like you've never read it before?

I am making my way through 1 Corinthians and landed on a very familiar section this morning ...

Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person; for God's temple is sacred, and you together are that temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

I have been trained to read that passage from an individual point of view. I am God's temple. God's Spirit dwells in me.  I have always approached this whole topic from the perspective of me, a singular individual.

But you know what?

It is not about me. It is about us.

Read the last part again ... "God's temple is sacred and you together are that temple.

What a beautiful reminder this morning (out of the blue!) of the beauty of God's people ... together, we are the place where God's Spirit dwells.

And we should be careful to not destroy or damage that temple ... We should treat it as sacred.

Certainly puts a new twist on the church, doesn't it?