“Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.”
God walking among us to save us!
What a powerful expectation the Book of Isaiah proclaims. The God of love and mercy will come with vengeance to rescue us: from our fears, from our feelings of self-righteousness, from our brokenness and from whatever niggling thing separates us from God. God’s plan for vengeance, or settling the score, is to come with love and save us. What a shift from despair to hope, from dark to light, from death life!
As the early church father Athanasius said 1,800 years ago, “He became what we are that he might make us what he is.”
What a story of expectation, salvation and hope!
What will you do with this story?
Hope is the thing
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune
Without the words,
And never stops at all.
And sweetest in
the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I have heard it in the chilliest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
Hope is the thing with feathers
A thought from Dietrich Bonhoeffer
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
2 Corinthians 5:20
“Be reconciled to God.” This means nothing less than let a king give you His kingdom, take heaven as a gift. Let the Lord of lords of all the world give you His love, and be His friends, His children, those whom He protects.
Come, surrender yourselves to Him and to His will, and you will be free from every evil, from all guilt, and from all bondage. You will be free from your own selves, you have found your way home, you will be at home with the Father…
O Lord, give all of us new hearts, open and obedient to you: hearts that love our neighbor and pray to you for our church. Lord, give us a good beginning; open your fatherly heart to us and lead us…”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) in his sermon entitled “Ambassadors for Christ” in The Collected Sermons of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012) 93.
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have,
for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
A church member once told me that giving to the church was her “most special and important sacrifice.” When I asked what she meant, she replied, “It’s because I do not have much, but what I have is all thanks to God, and I know I will sacrifice other things to make my contribution to the church.”
The irony is that she was one of our largest givers. Sometimes when we give to the work of the kingdom, it can feel like a sacrifice. Hebrews reminds us of the joy that happens when we participate in something bigger than ourselves in other words, the joy of participating in the work and ministry of the church. These actions are pleasing to God because we return a portion of our gifts back to God.
Ultimately, these choices help us move beyond ourselves and into the larger kingdom of God.
Think of the widow mentioned in the Gospel by our Lord: with two mites she surpassed the generous gifts of the wealthy.
Evagrios the Solitary
The second and third chapters of Genesis describe in lavish detail the abundance that God planted in the Garden of Eden for Adam and Eve. God fashioned each unique leaf, stream and animal out of abundant love; the humans named each out of abundant appreciation for these gifts. Ever since then, we humans have strived for abundance. However, finding true abundance can be deceptive and illusive. The fourth-century Christian monk and ascetic Evagrios reminds us of the importance of abundant simplicity that stretches far beyond material pleasures.
Today our hustle-bustle world is troubled by fears of scarcity: Do I have enough? Am I enough? Will I have enough for the future? Am I doing enough now?
In reality, we are perfectly made and perfectly enough. As Evagrios so pointedly says, we strive to be like the widow who depends on what she has at hand and commit all that she has for God’s kingdom. This is real stewardship. This reflects true abundance of creation and her appreciation of it.
This is the foundation of stewardship. We belong to God, and we share his abundance with others by using our varied talents and treasures to spread God’s kingdom.