Where are we in the story of our Exodus into freedom? For sure we imagine we've left Egypt (yes, despite the biblical-style grumbling we're all so adept at doing); for sure we know we're currently not even in sight of the Land of Promise, though most of us remember maybe having an occasional glimpse of it—or maybe that was our wishful thinking? But really, what experiences have we had that for us have been a foretaste of the promised-landed feast to come, in the land of milk and honey, the rich sweetness of life that's possible when the people of God trust their God to help them *be* God's people? How can we recognize the many ways God already has provided for us, not only in spite of our shortcoming but maybe especially in spite of the immensely faulty defectivenesses and really and truly real imperfections of our faith communities, work communities, families and other various affiliates that we can't live with but know we can't live without, either?
Another sure thing: you've already tried everything imaginable to undry yourself and your all-too-often deserted life. Maybe you've even "tried God," to cite a bumper sticker and lapel pin from some time past. But what does God promise through 2nd Isaiah, the prophet we know as one of the word-speakers God used to keep hope alive, to keep the promise of Easter alive, during Israel's time in exile in Babylonia? Yes…during that terrible exile Israel experienced after they'd already lived in Zion, after they'd actually arrived in the Land of the Fullness of God's Reign, the land of milk and honey?! Through Isaiah 43:18-19, God pleads and promises:
God will not demand from us without also promising us: all of this paradoxical, ultimately paradisiacal and humanly almost unimaginative activity on God's part is because of us and for us: waters and rivers … for any kind of life to exist, let alone thrive, water is absolutely essential! God, the Uncreated One, created and formed the People of God, so they might declare His praise, so we might declare the praise of our God: "the people I formed for myself, so that they might declare my praise," in another Isaiah phrase reminiscent of the Westminster Catechism's 1st question and answer, proclaiming "our chief and highest end is to glorify God and fully to enjoy God forever," but once again, God will not command us and demand of us without providing the reason for us to do his demands and commands, without our experiencing the gifts of God for the people of God.
Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
The wild animals will honor me,
the jackals and the ostriches;
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
the people whom I formed for myself
so that they might declare my praise.
Just like God's self-revelation, God's activity tends to be paradoxical, so we need to expect the unexpected, like the paradox of fire making us less thirsty, like the wonder and surprise of a river running through the parched tinderbox of the deserts of our lives; we need to expect God to be "the God of great surprises," as graphic artist Corita Kent aptly described Him; we need to trust we'll find evidence of God's activity in humanly unexpected places and particularly at unexpected times, since God created kairos time for us but always acts within the fullness of divine chronos time. Have you noticed how frequently scripture uses images of fire and of water as symbols of the presence of the Divine?
Although every one of us sometimes feels dry, parched, lifeless and totally inadequate, the all-consuming fire of the HS paradoxically *waters* us and brings us back to life, resurrected life! Although you may feel hopeless, alone and desperate in need of life, God's first claim and passion is human need, your need, my need and our neighbors' needs!
We've heard God's promise; now, how can we claim God's promise for ourselves and for the world we live in; what vision can we see and claim for the future? The frequent parchedness of our lives says a lot about our readiness and potential receptiveness to the Fire, the Wind and the rivers of life-giving Water we're already experienced in the form of the Spirit of the Living God, the God Who in Jesus Christ owned us in baptism and then re-claims us every moment of every day; our too-often too-dry plain dull existence declares we're ready for those wilderness streams and desert rivers. To claim them? Well, to begin…be obedient! Obey the Word of Life, first by not remembering or even considering those things of old, those old-fashioned attitudes, habits and other fruitless behaviors or those old-timey places, either. Also speaking to the exiles in the strange land of Babylon, Jeremiah the prophet told them to "bloom where they were planted," by telling them to build houses, plant gardens and seek the welfare of the place where they lived in the right here and right now.
It's time to rejoice in your feeling like Parched Tinderboxes; it's high time to open yourself to the dance of the Spirit's paradoxical movement, to the searing baptism with the fire of the Spirit and the daily remembering of your water baptism in the font of death and fountain of life.
to be continued again.