When The World Is Filled With Chaos
Our daily lectionary reflection comes to us today from Isaiah 65:17-19, which reads:
17 “See, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight
and its people a joy.
19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem
and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and of crying
will be heard in it no more.
This passage spoke to me this morning--especially in light of all of the chaos and upheaval that we seem to be experiencing in the world around us.
Just this morning I continued to read about the mounting anxiety surrounding the coronavirus---anxiety that seems to be gripping people all over the globe. Borders between countries are being closed, we are on the edge of financial crisis... it feels like the world has gone mad.
I saw that in some parts of the country one of the governing bodies of my denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA) actually suggested that churches cancel worship until everything blows over.
I was saddened by this and a bit confused. I completely understand easing the consciences of people who might be at-risk for the virus... but was troubled by the suggestion to completely cancel worship.
It seems to me at times such as this that those of us who claim to follow Jesus need to redouble our efforts to gather with one another, and to declare our trust in God in the face of whatever troubles assail us.
It doesn't mean that we are careless, or irresponsible in the ways we gather. We should be mindful and use caution, to be sure--but we still should gather.
To neglect gathering together would diminish the light of the kingdom in our hearts, and do violence to texts like the one we read above.
In this portion of Isaiah, the prophet is speaking to a fearful and uncertain group of people who are about to return to Jerusalem---a Jerusalem that was utterly destroyed and has lain in waste for 70 years.
To return to the desolated city and try to rebuild... without security... without safety... without certainty in the outcome... this is what faces the people who are hearing the prophet.
Then God speaks life into these people---words of hope and beauty... visions of a new world full of possibility and wonder. And underneath all of God's words you can hear the drumbeat of other words... words that God speaks to God's people over and over again throughout the biblical witness...
The world seems out of joint, chaotic and filled with uncertainty, and this produces fear in so many of us--fear of the future, fear of our safety...
But if we become more isolated, more apart from one another... If we close ourselves off from one another in efforts to ensure our security and comfort... If we neglect gathering because we are afraid...
We also close ourselves off from the possibilities of new life, a new world and new beginnings that God is constantly initiating all around us, all of the time.
Do not be afraid, Beloved. God is doing new things.
In the words of St. Julian of Norwich: "All things will be well, and all manner of things will be well." God's presence is all around us, even in the midst of this chaos. God's love surrounds us, and grace abounds within us, even when all seems lost.
May these words give you hope and confidence today, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.