Lately, I’ve had a hard time focusing as I am reading the word. I am not getting up any earlier than normal, but I have had longer days…and been living the life of a nomad for the past month, so maybe it is just that I am out of sorts and not sleeping as well as I would if I were in my own bed.
I don’t’ mean to imply that I am in an uncomfortable situation…I am not. The bed I occupy now is very nice and comfy…it’s just not mine.
I say all that not to complain but to explain my delayed reaction to what I read this morning.
I love that this section starts with what God has done for His people.
16And I have put my words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of my hand,establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, 'You are my people.'"
That is the reminder. We are His people.
I find I need a lot of reminders.
The next portion of this passage talks about the people experiencing the wrath of God…the cup of staggering and pointing out that (though they have likely sought it in numerous places) there has been no comfort to be found, no guidance, no leadership.
That made me think of something I heard today. I was talking to our receptionist who is a member of a church located just across the way from our office building. The president of our company is also a member as is one of our engineers. He is the president of the congregation and heads up the various committees that seem to actually run the church. From her description of the structure, the pastor's responsibilities are preaching on Sunday, weddings, funerals and occasional counseling. As of yet, none of the congregation has been contacted, no attempt has been made to gather or have any form of service and the engineer who is president of the congregation feels it will be left to him to organize the cleaning up and rebuilding…up to him to either make it happen or make the tough choices regarding what is replaced and what is considered a loss.
I have heard several other stories quite like this, where the pastor is not being a pastor and truly seems to only be thinking of himself. Several have up and left, found jobs elsewhere and basically left their congregations to fend for themselves. Still others have made little or no attempt to reach out to their members or be a part of the rebuilding process.
I was stunned, quite frankly. And then thankful, that my church has not been left without leadership…without someone to guide us and gather us together…without a shepherd. We have been truly blessed.
Then my thoughts lingered back to the word of prophesy I heard regarding Katrina. It was given a year ago and basically said that this would be a cleansing.
I believe Katrina was to cleanse this sinner from that particular sinful region.
New Orleans (and the Gulfcoast in general) is sinful, to be sure. God judges sin, that is also certain. But, Jesus has dealt with the sin of man. He didn't do it by obliterating sin or sinful towns...He paved the only way to right standing with God, commissioned us with the preparation of the gospel of peace and has given the rocks permission to cry out in our absence. The gospel is plain and proclaimed in truth every day. What is lacking is our part…the church’s part. The daily living of a life of faith, in truth, out loud, without curtailment or excuse or contradiction. What is lacking is a church that is as passionate about the gospel as it is about its building and programs and fellowships. What is lacking is lives surrendered to one thing and one thing only…to know Christ and Him crucified.
In Isaiah 52, a great call goes out…and of course that call also comes with a reminder…and a promise:
The Lord has comforted His people. Unfortunately, some of His people have not received His comfort…even turned their back to it. This is a time for us as believers to cling even more fiercely to Christ for if Katrina has showed us nothing it is that nothing else is guaranteed us. Another storm could whip up tomorrow and wipe away what Katrina left behind. Rita threatened to do just that. All that is promised is that God is…always near…never changing…loving, kind, merciful…and that no matter what befalls us (whether by the hand of the enemy or His wrath) he will comfort His people.
Isaiah 51:16 And I have put my words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of my hand,establishing[c] the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, 'You are my people.'"
You are my people.
He has called us so…let us live it out and do as Paul urges in Ephesians chapter 5:
This is written not to the lost but to the church. The Ephesian church needed this reminder and admonition. I believe the New Orleans church needed an epistle in the form of Katrina to remind and admonish us of what we are called to.
As the winds blew and the water flooded in, I believe the Lord was saying:
We have been largely dead here as a church...as believers…in the New Orleans area. But not dead to the world. As we stand in the death and destruction Katrina has wrought, let us die our little deaths to self and the world and awake to Christ…open our eyes to His light shining on us, leading the way, illuminating those things that are pleasing to Him, that we might shine in this city that is still so dark despite the cleansing flood. Let us heed the call, submit to the correction and walk on with His words in our mouths, covered by the shadow of His hand, proclaiming that we are His people.