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

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?

We need both ...

I often hear the argument, "I am not the kind of person who engages in spiritual practices," or "I am too busy engaging in ministry and serving others for things like prayer, reflection on Scripture or prayers of examen."

I sympathize with these arguments and I struggle with them as well.

However, I still argue that all of us, no matter our personality, need to include specific activities in our lives that allow God access to our hearts, that allow space and time for our souls to "come out," and that give our relationship with God more than mere "lip-service."

The Catholic writer and mystic, Thomas Merton, said: "He [or she] who attempts to act and do things for others and for the world without deepening his [or her] own self-understanding, freedom, integrity and capacity for love [through the quieter spiritual practices], will not have anything to give to others."

Don't we intuitively know this is true?

When I engage in intense seasons of ministry without creating space for rest and reconnection with God, my service to others often ends up being no service at all.  Especially to those poor people I am trying to serve.

Perhaps this is why, after a period of intense engagement with the world, Jesus would often say to his disciples, "Come away with me and rest awhile ..."

Simon Chan, in his book Spiritual Theology, puts words to this: "A comprehensive spirituality stresses a balanced approach to the cultivation of the spiritual life. It recognizes that true spiritual growth consists of rightly balanced opposing acts."

Even the extrovert must make time for silence, solitude, reflection on Scripture.

Even the introvert must get up from the desk to serve and speak and engage others.

Is your spiritual life "rightly balanced?"