Hope & a Future
Have you ever been to the desert? I’ve been in several: dry as a bone sand, rugged harsh barren deserts, brush deserts, high deserts. They are merciless. Their seasons change, the weather changes, but they are cruel and harsh places… lonely, solitary and unforgiving. On almost every day the sun is blinding, the bleached white land reflecting the sun back, magnifying it’s heat and its light. One squints, gets eye burn and your skin dries faster than you can drink water. Such was Israel’s spiritual predicament towards its last days as a kingdom: divided, compromised, drunk on the gods of the day… and misled spiritually by its own leaders.
I often hope for New Orleans. The recovery is almost seven years from Hurricane Katrina’s devastation. There is soooooo much good, so much progress and the wielders of power who took advantage are being purged and convicted. There is yet so far to go. I am often saddened when I drive through the yet to be recovered areas, the areas slow to recover, the vast neighborhoods of poverty, the break down of the social fabric of some of the inner city neighborhoods, suffering decades of decline and break down, hopelessness. I get sad when I see what was, the slide down from her days of glory… the families that once walked, played, lived. I sometimes get sad at the lostness of the upwardly mobile as well… They have education, privilege, jobs, they hope in man made solutions, and pay homage to God, but do follow Him, instead obeying the god Bacchus.
This morning as I sat on a flight, I opened my Common Prayer Book, as part of praying the second prayer office of the day… Lauds is to worship, not petition, to surrender all and place one’s self in a posture of prostrate heart before the Living God. The reading took me by surprise and without expecting it or looking for it, He spoke to me… telling me to embrace this passage and celebrate, for He is indeed doing a mighty work. I do not claim to be in the “breakthrough” theology camp at all, so it took me back even more.
Here is the passage: Ezekiel 37
11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ 12 Thereforeprophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”
15 The word of the Lord came to me: 16 “Son of man, take a stick and write on it, ‘For Judah, and the people of Israel associated with him’; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and all the house of Israel associated with him.’ 17 And join them one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand.
Note their perspective: Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’
God does work where there is no hope. Though I don’t understand, I trust who says this and wait and celebrate one sign of life after another.
Back to deserts… they change about once a year: rain! life appears overnight, beautiful little blossoms in places no human ever sees or appreciates, each honoring the Living God. As New Orleans continues to recover, and life continues to return, even better in many ways, may we remember the giver of all good things.