If you’ve ever wondered whether God has a sense of humor, I recommend flipping open your bible and letting your finger randomly land on a story. It seems that our God has a particular penchant for asking people to do impossible things.
Let’s imagine conversation between God and Moses:
God: “Moses, it is I, the LORD, your God. You shall lead my people out of Egypt, and here’s the route you shall take.”
Moses: “Yes, Lord. Absolutely. Perfect. No problem. Except, I do have a little, very small concern: that being, the very general somewhat monopolizing presence of…the RED SEA.”
God: “You will walk through the Red Sea. You will plunge your staff into the earth—the waters will separate —nobody will even get their sandals wet.”
We have to wonder what was going through Moses’ head as he rounded the last bend towards the Red Sea, with the entirety of the People of God in tow, and more than a few soldiers hot on their heels. I mean, commandments appearing on stone tablets is one thing, but parting the Red Sea with a stick… Yeah. A little pressure.
In today’s reading, we have the prophet Isaiah who was gifted with a vision of peace. Except that, much like today, life was anything but peaceful. Corruption, war, the oppression of people who had found themselves displaced, the melding of religion and power eclipsing the welfare of the poor… Sound familiar?
In the middle of this, God showed Isaiah something different…a beautiful vision of inclusivity, of belonging. Isaiah writes poetically:
“In the days to come, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it….”
“…they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
Had I been Isaiah, I would’ve felt overcome with longing for this vision to come to pass. I also would have felt completely at a loss as to how it ever would.
Do you ever feel like that?
I admit, I need to temper my intake of world news. I often feel devastated by the suffering, the injustices, and the ill-will that monopolizes the headlines. Thanks to the digital age, we are bombarded 24×7 with tragedy; it is enough to make us feel small and powerless, and it threatens to extinguish our hope.
And yet God gives us this vision, this dream, this fire in our hearts for something different.
But, how do we reach ‘the mountain of the Lord’s house’ when it seems to be so far away?
Well, what if, in the Bible stories, God isn’t really asking people to do impossible things? What if, what God is showing us is that when we let the vision inform our actions—that nothing is impossible?
I believe that each of us actively participates in co-creating God’s dream for humanity. We help to make the vision of God a reality in the world. What a gift, and an immeasurable responsibility.
To quote the American poet Mary Oliver: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Maybe that’s too difficult to answer all at once. Maybe, it is more practical to ask ourselves each morning: What will I do on THIS day to make a difference?
We are so blessed. Some of us have the gift of song. Wouldn’t it be amazing to sing lullabies to parent-less children who are still waiting—still waiting—for their forever families? Some of us are more acquainted than we’d like with grief. Perhaps our aching heart knows exactly how to comfort the broken.
We have among us mentors, lovers of arts and crafts—people who know that our future rests in the hands of our youth. (BTW, if that sounds like you, I can hook you up right here at St. George’s!)
Dear friends, each of us has the capacity to be a world changer. You don’t have to be a politician, or a celebrity…humanity is in fact healed most often through more subtle, quieter voices. Often, it is not even necessary to use words; our very lives speak volumes.
I know this to be true with every ounce of my being.
I was a child who came from a highly abusive home. The abuse was constant, multi-faceted, and completely hidden from others. As an adult, I saw a therapist. Upon hearing the details of my story, she told me that the fact that I had not only survived, but thrived was nothing short of a miracle. She was right. The fact that I am standing here before you is due to the work of many agents of grace. One, in particular, was my grandfather.
Now, I am not about to tell you some hollywood-style sensationalized story. I am going to tell you about an extraordinarily ordinary hero.
My grandfather was a WW2 vet with a blue collar job, four children, and seven grandchildren. He lived in an unremarkable house on the wrong side of town, but it was adorned with memories. In fact, when I was with Grandpa, it seemed as if time itself stood still. Maybe this was because we would do such fun things together, like go for ice cream runs, or make peanut butter and banana sandwiches, or because he would let me order a blue slushie at the diner with breakfast (I KNOW! Completely awesome when you’re 10!). Or maybe it was the fact that when he asked me what was new, my grandfather looked at me with his smiling eyes because he really DID want to know. I knew one thing for certain: I was loved.
As a child used to living with continuous violence, this was both puzzling and life-altering.
I watched my grandfather plant these little seedlings in his garden. He would set them up in neat rows, making sure each one had everything that it needed to grow. Sometimes the tender plants would start to get scorched, and my grandfather would set up a little bit of shade so that they didn’t wither, but had time to flourish.
He did that for me, too.
Never underestimate your potential to make an impact.
Friends, the kingdom of God is not so far away. The kingdom of God is at hand.
In the gospel lesson, we are reminded of the urgency to prepare, to act. The world awaits.
What will you do ‘with your one wild and precious life?’
You and I—we are co-creators of the dream; we are agents of grace. The temple of the Lord is on the highest mountain, and that is exactly where we meet each time we take a step towards one another.