Friday, December 16, 2005

The Prophet of Advent: 3rd Friday-B

Read Isaiah 42:1-9

The movie "Chariots of Fire" came out when I was in seminary. In the movie, the sister of Eric Liddell asks him to stop running and return to the mission field. He responds, "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure."

Well, some of my classmates were livid with such a remark. That certainly smacks of works righeousness; and how dare any one imply that what I do (or anyone else does) causes God to reward us - with pleasure or anything else!

That's why I like this passage from Isaiah. One of the famed 'Servant Songs', it clearly tells us that God is not only capable of delighting in us (which I think was the intent in what Liddell said in the movie), God chooses to delight in us! But not because we run fast; not because we write well; not because we are stronger; not because we are smarter.

God delights in us when we serve!

And in a culture that exalts accomplishment; in a time when athletes demand millions and millions in salaries (and usually produce less and less); in a world where one strives to be No. 1, to be the most famous, to outdo everyone else, the prophet of Advent reminds us that God's people (that's you and me) are called to be servants.

Which doesn't necessarily mean doing menial work that no one else wants. It doesn't mean taking a pay cut to prove how 'humble' you are. It doesn't mean being a doormat for everyone else.

What we are called to do is to bring forth justice (note the word is used three times in the first four verses). It means making sure that the widows and orphans are taken care of, not just at Christmas, but every day of the year; it means taking God's light into all the shadowed corners of this world; it means mending those who are broken, and bringing new hope to those whose lives are growing dim.

And when we do these things, when we are faithful and obedient to God's call to servanthood, when we gladly reach out and take the hand of those in need, then we will feel God's pleasure, forever and ever.


I don't know why you insist on choosing to work through human beings - like Jesus, like me, like others. I'd rather run down the street, than clear it of poverty, Calling God. I'd rather spend time making more money than mentoring a young person. I'd rather get an award for my hard work, than serve food down at the shelter. But you have called me to service, Choosing God, and so I will listen and answer your call. Amen.

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

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