I've been to Disney World more than many will be in their entire life. I believe the number is four. I went twice when I was a kid, and twice as a teenager. I realize Disney World and Land have become the American Mecca, which makes me uncomfortable sharing this information. (I say this knowing the real Mecca is a holy journey for Muslims, they spend years saving up for. It feels so superficial Americans have such a consumer driven version.) I continue, because I have a purpose.
When I was a kid I loved the Small World ride. This was before the internet, and the world seemed so huge to me. I was filled with so much awe and wonder. I loved the syrupy-sweet song, and was even more ecstatic when we learned it in Elementary School choir. I wanted to play with the animatronic kids in the ride. Their world looked so perfect, and I wanted to be part of it...
Only real life kicked in. The real kids, in their real world.. it isn't perfect. My life isn't perfect. Nothing is perfect. I thought about the Small World ride just last week. I don't like it at all anymore. What have I turned into?! Where is my sense of innocence? I lost it. The last vestiges of innocence died three and a half years ago. Just thinking about that ride feels like I'm being spoon fed pure sugar. Blah!
So does Isaiah 40. I ask again, what have I turned into?! I want to be that girl again. I want to embrace the scripture with awe and wonder. I want the simplicity of just accepting what I'm reading. I can't. I won't. You shouldn't either.
This summer the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) will focus on this scripture. I want to bring Isaiah's words to reality. Connect to what is going on in our homes and churches.
- - -
People are broken. People are hurt. They've been hurt by people they have previously called friends. We've possibly hurt people. (The only fingers worth pointing, are worth pointing directly at ourselves. ) We've got war wounds, or at least battle scars. It's difficult to see the love and compassion in the church when there is so much pain within:
"Comfort, comfort my people!"
says your God.
Speak compassionately to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her that her compulsory service has ended,
that her penalty has been paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins!
(Isaiah 40:1-2 CEB)
Some of us, like myself, have worked our butt off. We have been trying to figure out what Christianity looks like in the next generation. It has become really difficult! There are mountains in our way! There are chasms stopping us flat! People, who should be on our side, stand in our way! We have to be the ones to try out new ideas, and brainstorm the crazy possibilities. However, if we don't follow the formula that is currently killing the church, we are doing it wrong. Sometimes I feel like Macgyver. I feel like I'm called to create a fully functional church with nothing but a toothpick and wax paper! Either someone is in my way, or I have nothing to work with, The path is extremely difficult.
A voice is crying out:
“Clear the Lord’s way in the desert!
Make a level highway in the wilderness for our God!
Every valley will be raised up,
and every mountain and hill will be flattened.
Uneven ground will become level,
and rough terrain a valley plain.
The Lord’s glory will appear,
and all humanity will see it together;
the Lord’s mouth has commanded it.”
What should I call out?
All flesh is grass; all its loyalty is like the flowers of the field.
The grass dries up and the
flower withers when the
LORD's breath blows on it.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass dries up;
the flower withers...
but our God's word will exist forever.
Isaiah 40:3-8 CEB
Then there's the dwindling numbers. Many of us have seen it. There was a time when the pews were filled. I remember an event, at this church I used to attend, where chairs were brought in because there was no room in the pews. Now, the lack of bodies in the church brings anxiety. Anxiety brings negative behavior from us. Negative behavior drives more people out of the church. It feels like a losing battle.
Go up on a high mountain, messenger Zion!
Raise your voice and shout, messenger Jerusalem!
Raise it; don’t be afraid;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
Here is the Lord God,
coming with strength,
with a triumphant arm,
bringing His reward with him
and His payment before him.
Like a shepherd, God will tend the flock;
he will gather lambs in his arms
and lift them onto his lap.
He will gently guide the nursing ewes.
Look up at the sky and consider:
Who created these?
The one who brings out their attendants one by one,
summoning each of them by name.
Because of God’s great strength
and mighty power, not one is missing.
Why do you say, Jacob,
and declare, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord
my God ignores my predicament”?
Don’t you know?
Haven’t you heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the creator of the ends of the earth.
He doesn’t grow tired or weary.
His understanding is beyond human reach,
giving power to the tired
and reviving the exhausted.
Youths will become tired and weary,
young men will certainly stumble;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength;
they will fly up on wings like eagles;
they will run and not be tired;
they will walk and not be weary.
Isaiah 40:9-11; 26-31
The time has come when we need to lick our wounds, stop focusing on what can't be, and start focusing on what we could become. It's time to stop going back to old programs, and start field testing new possibilities.
We sit on the precipice of a new day. We have two choices. We can live in our loss and pain and go down with the setting sun. -OR- We pick ourselves up, take a leap, and soar!