October 2, 2019
Pastor Dan Hollis
It’s hard to watch the news these days and see a road to a bright future. The chrome-plated flying-car dreams of yesteryear sometimes seem a foolish hope in the face of the crises and dangers and threats we hear about every day.
This causes us to act fearfully. To live our lives in ways that reflect the legitimate fear with which the news and our own experiences pummel us all the time. And that’s natural. It speaks to that self-preservation instinct genetics or God wired into the most basic parts of our brains. We try to protect ourselves from the physical and emotional effects these dangers can have on us. We see it in our inward defenses: keeping a tight hold on what’s close to us, shielding ourselves from the most traumatic news and imagery, disconnecting or escaping or distracting, closing ourselves off, and oftentimes denying—especially those things that don’t affect us directly, or haven’t yet. And we see it in our outward defenses: reacting, arguing or belittling positions we disagree with, and advocating extreme and harmful measures that dehumanize our fellow children of God and weaponize our own self-interest.
So the question becomes, how should we live in the face of this bigness that assaults us? This threatened feeling, this pessimism, this world that ain’t what it used to be? Should we live in fear, and let the knowledge of a dark future turn us into a race of rabid porcupines?
I think of what the prophet Jeremiah did when he saw the downfall of ancient Israel coming. He knew the dark years of exile and uncertainty and loss were coming, and yet what did he do? He bought a field for a vineyard. A terrible investment in a land about to be tromped on by thousands of soldiers, ravaged by fire, and beset by war and conquest. Shouldn’t he have run for the hills or hidden in a cave or, in the words of the perennial classic Chicken Run, “put your head between your knees and kiss your bum goodbye”?
Jeremiah’s lesson for us, his justification for this nonsensical purchase: “For this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.”
God promises us that darkness won’t be the end of our story. No matter how threatening the clouds of the future are, or how many years of darkness we face, God—the one thing bigger than all the biggest of issues—promises us in page after page of the Bible, throughout cycles of the thousands of years of recorded human history, and imprinted on each of our hearts if we listen deep enough, that whatever dark future we face is not all that is left to face. Just as the citizens of Jerusalem facing an impossible future one day found deliverance, a return home, and a brighter life on the other side of the darkness, so too are we promised that light will one day overcome the darkness we face every day. One day the darkness will pass, and houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.
When we live in that hope, when we live in faith of that promise God has made to us, our whole world changes.
Psalm 146: “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help. When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish. Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.”
God endures. God’s presence with us and within us endures. Can you feel it? God’s love for you, for me, for all the people we have met and all the people we will never meet… endures.
Pastor Dan’s song of the week: “Have You Ever Seen the Rain,” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
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