Psalter Ps 139
From the Old Testament Isa. 40:1-11
From the Epistles Eph 5:11-17
From the Gospels Mark 1:9-15
In one of the museums in London, there is a very interesting maritime map behind sealed glass. The dating on it is 1525. The map consists of a primitive representation of the ocean. The cartographer or perhaps someone after him, thought it appropriate to write warnings in the unknown places on the map. He wrote in Latin: “Hic sunt dracones,” “Here be Dragons.”
However, what makes the map even more remarkable is the fact that another British explorer, Sir John Franklin, used it in the early 1800s. He not only deleted the warnings of his predecessor with thick strokes, but he wrote in large letters all over the map: “Here be GOD!”
It is true; the future is unknown. Many of the known visible certainties will most likely also disappear … In front of us lie uncharted landscapes, undiscovered oceans, and continents. Terrifying possibilities and exciting opportunities are lurking around every corner. The dragons and continents just have different names: health challenges, growing old, stress, and anxiety, challenging relationships, failures, financial situation, academic stress, friendships, uncertainty about our children, political future. Will there be another Covid variant? What will inflation do? And the Stock market? And my health?
The feeling is very much like the explorers of years ago: It feels as if we have come to the edge of the earth, a bubbling mass of water, an end from here which no one can ever return. We are now where monsters are!
The context of Isa 1-39 refers to the time when Israel was prosperous and relatively stable. The reign of kings brought relative stability and economic and political prosperity. But then, everything deteriorated so suddenly …
In 586 BC, the Babylonians invaded Israel. The four pillars of stability were lost:
– the land lost to another nation,
– the city of Jerusalem fallen
– the temple destroyed
– the King dethroned.
Their future was suddenly unstable and uncertain! A large number of Israelites were exiled to Babylon. Everything seemed hopeless!
Sitting in Babylon, they asked: Where is God? God is gone! “God is NOWHERE!”
In times like these people often feel far from God. As if they think God has forgotten them; or even turned against them! Or they can just keep going … Sometimes, it does not feel like God is near.
In this dire situation, Isaiah 40 brings Good News: God is NOW HERE. Westermann calls this response of GOD: clear gospel, already in the Old Testament. It proclaims salvation, nothing but salvation. When Israel had the experience that God is far away, and the future is hopeless, God came with this Good News (“Good TIDINGS” 3X !!! v9):
The summary of this passage is, “Your God is here now!” God is not only present in the temple in Jerusalem or Zion! Be surprised by God in unexpected places! Even here in Babylon.
PS 139 Supports the view of God presence in unexpected places:
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
If I go to the deepest parts of the earth, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, (Hid Sunt Dracones)
even there your hand shall lead me,
And your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night’,
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.
Sometimes when we go through challenging-or difficult times, people wonder if God has forsaken them. The deduction is that, because things are going wrong, God has turned away from me or against me…. THIS CANT BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH!
God is always present. We are absent! God is there, even if it feels as if GOD is absent! God reveals Godself to us amid all the uncertainties.
“HERE BE GOD!” God is with you wherever you go. Even if you are going through big storms of change and challenges, GOD IS WITH YOU …. Your God is now here! >>> Wherever you are watching online: God is there…
Did you pick up the movement from “God is nowhere” to “God is now here!”!
GOD is present! It’s comforting but many times, people struggle with this issue: “Ok, I accept that God is present, but how and what difference does it make?”
God comforts and inspires Gods people by revealing two images of God:
• God present as Mighty Majestic Conqueror
• God present as a Loving Compassionate Shepherd !!!
God is a Mighty, the Present Mighty Majestic Conquerer.
V 11: See, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him. (wreck–com–pense)
The way that God is present is with all God’s power and might. The Lord can do infinitely more than we can pray or think. The Lord makes the impossible possible. (v4 referring to the exodus of Israel from Egypt). The Lord Makes victory possible in difficult circumstances.
But the beauty of the text is that God shares God’s power and Gifts with us! (reward & recompence) God gives the vision, strength, courage, life, drive, passion, perseverance, resilience, peace and wisdom …
God’s presence frees us from our fear and gives us the courage to flourish. God surprised us HERE NOW with gifts uplifting us: This is confirmed later in the chapter: Isaiah 40: 29-31
29 He gives power to the faint,
And strengthens the powerless.
30 Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
31 but those who wait for the LORD, shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.
Dear Beloved: MIGHTY CONQUERER is present there where you are now!!! God offers God’s support, and strength to you in your weakness. Making you soar like eagles!!! Remember, this is in the midst of highly challenging circumstances!
But God reveals Godself not just as the Mighty Conqueror but also as a Loving Compassionate Shepherd, HERE NOW!
The One who makes the mountains melt like wax is at the same time the Shepherd who takes care of his flock: >>>> READ TEXT Isaiah 40:11
He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the mother sheep.
God declares God’s unconditional loving presence !!! >>> No, wander the text describes it as “Good Tidings!”
God as Shepherd sees the flock, the lambs, and the Mother Sheep! God gathers us in God’s loving embrace, carries us in God’s bosom, God cares, God loves us!
The word for the Compassionate God, El ha Rahanan (“The wombed one” is the image of GOD as Birth Mother is holding us in her womb and births us to newness of Life (p52). The child in the womb is fed via the umbilical cord, in mothers fluids flowing through the child, that being enwombed in God means God’s fluids run through our veins. God’s breath breathing in our lungs… Ultimate reality is our union with God. Entirely held, nurtured, surrounded by God, and intimately connected with God’s very being.
Did you pick up that God cares for the flock, the lambs, and then…refers to “the Mother Sheep”? Like human moms, nursing ewes (you’s) need some special consideration when they have new baby lambs. When lambs are newly born, the first couple of days is a necessary bonding time with mom. The nursing pair become familiar with one another’s sound and smell, so they can readily identify one another in the herd.
Leading a “nursing ewe” (you), “gently” means the Shepherd is not only aware of the mother’s concern for her babies. She is torn between keeping up with the herd and keeping up with a baby that needs time, but He is also sensitive to it and willingly takes action to help her with her concerns. He understands, and responds supportively, with patience!
I was thinking of all the mothers in the congregation, overburdened with many responsibilities: Have you ever felt torn in some way between “following your Shepherd” and all your responsibilities? Have you ever wondered if God is just waiting for you to “get with it,” blind to all you are trying to juggle? Do not worry! Your Shepherd is not frustrated with you! God takes exceptional care of you.
Uncertain times – times of transition – are at the same time, times of mercy, grace, and consolation. Yes, this shepherd took the fate of the sheep so seriously that he, as a good shepherd himself, became a sheep and suffered in our place under the powers of guilt and death.
GODs Compassionate, Powerful radical presence at this moment (HERE NOW) is beautifully portrayed in MARK 1: 14-15 in an extremely difficult context, with immense pressure from the Roman empire with huge political implications.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee,
proclaiming the good news of God, and saying,
‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near;
repent, and believe in the good news.
We read the words “GOOD NEWS”(twice as in Isa 40:9!)! The Good news is that the time is fulfilled; God is HERE!
There are two Greek words for time in the New Testament. Chronos and Kairos! Chronos appears 52 times and Kairos 86 times.
Chronos: is chronological time, where all time is equally important. Horizontal time. A Greek god named Chronus, god of time, destroyed everything in his path.
“ In addition to the name, the story of Cronus eating his children was also interpreted as an allegory to a specific aspect of time hero within Cronus’ sphere of influence. According to this theory, Cronus represented the destructive ravages of time, which consumed all things.”
Kairos: on the other hand it is a very special time, a special occasion, the best time! Vertical time.( NOW!!!) “Kairos is the proper or opportune time and has a qualitative, permanent nature, the right moment or occasion, the critical, and opportune moment in history.”
* In the Greek world, the word kairos was used for archery , the moment with the most potential when the bow was retracted, or weaving when the yarn was just ready to go through the eye of the needle …
But there was also the god Caerus: God of opportunity and luck.
“Kairos, the youngest divine son of Zeus, is usually depicted as a bald youth with only a long lock of hair hanging down from his forehead, indicating that opportunity could only be grasped as he approached. He’s fleeting. It is a window of opportunity, “a passing instant when an opening appears which must be driven through with force if success is to be achieved.”
Leonard Sweet: “A kairic moment is critical, choosing time. Kairos is not measured by ticking seconds on a clock but by its time-bomb significance to history. ” Time bomb opportunity!
What makes a time-bomb moment is that GOD is HERE NOW. NOT NOWHERE!!!! The Kingdom of God is near is in us! God’s presence is not only in the temple and on Mount Zion! God’s full presence is here…
The KINGDOM HAS COME NEAR IN THIS MOMENT: The Greek verb êngiedzein , which is translated in the NAB as “coming near,” has two meaning possibilities, namely “to come near” and “to break in / arrive.”
A door opens in the center of our being, and we seem to fall through it into immense depths, which, although they are infinite- are still accessible to us. All eternity seems to have become ours in this one placid and breathless contact. – Thomas Merton.
Brother Lawrence was a 17th century, Carmelite monk who was very simple and uneducated. So he worked in the kitchens, and as a cobbler, his spiritual practice was to do everything, even peeling potatoes with awareness of God’s presence. As a sacred way of living, he called it “practicing the presence of God”.
This is the invitation that we should recognize the sacred in every moment by paying attention and choosing to be present. This allows us to begin to attune to the subtle awareness that we are held in God through all life’s moments.
Jean Pierre de Caussade spoke of the sacrament of the present moment.
Everything we need is right here now. God is always in this moment in an accepting non-blaming way.
That changes everything! God’s incarnate kingdom is stated with two indicatives. The time is now, and God is in us, here now!
Then the reaction that should follow the impending kingdom is commanded with two imperatives: “Repent” and “believe the gospel.”
Sometimes translations from one language to another can be disastrous. One example comes from the translation of the Greek word metanoia. The Latin Fathers translated it using the Latin word meaning penance or repentance. But that does not do justice to metanoia at all. Metanoia implies something much more significant. There is a hidden depth to it that the Latin Fathers missed. One biblical scholar called it a “linguistic and theological tragedy.”(A.T. Robertson). Even Tertullian criticized it early on.
OBVIOUS: Meta (beyond, more significant) – noia (knowing – noeo) means “transformation of mind to a greater or “higher consciousness,” “a transformative change of heart “as Webster’s dictionary defines it. St. Paul calls it “putting on the mind of Christ,” the consciousness of God. Illumination or enlightenment comes closer than penance.
In a letter to professor and vicar John Staupitz, Martin Luther wrote,
“I learned that this word is in Greek metanoia and is derived from meta and noun, i.e., post and mentem so that poenitentia or metanoia is a “coming to one’s senses,” …. so that metanoia signifies a changing of the mind and heart.”
I don’t think the same about God anymore (God is closer en more intimately present); my Identity is reformed, I think differently about other people, With love and compassion, and this beautiful world that God made!!! All changes!
And we live trusting that God is here now! (“Believe the Gospel”). If we trust that God is with us in every moment of our lives OUR LIVES CHANGED TOTALLY:
What if you meet the living God in your everyday life?
if the forest and the starry skies were your cathedrals?
if your house, office, or mall, was your church building for worship
if every time of difficulty were an opportunity for dedication
What if our spiritual disciplines were ordinary events in your life,
if prayer was your words, thoughts, and consciousness,
if meditation was an immersion in sports, knitting, or music?
What if holy water was the water you drink, shower, or bath in,
if holy bread was the simple cut on your plate,
if the blood of Christ was the glass of wine in your hand?
What if life was your pastor, that teaches you
if your circle of friends and strangers were your Bible study group,
if the book you are reading surprised you with words of God?
If so, you would meet the living Lord in your life!
If you use GPS Guidance from Google Maps, and you reach your destination, it says “YOU HAVE ARRIVED”. BUT, Thich Nhat Hanh, that passed away two weeks ago, taught a walking meditation where you say to yourself with every step: I have arrived, I have arrived, I have arrived…. This time (NOW) where we you are (HERE) is Kairos time!
I invite you to take your CALENDAR for the rest of the year your pen and write in big letters over your calendar: GOD IS HERE NOW! NOT NOWHERE BUT NOW HERE.
PRAYER: Poem from Rev. Jim Cotter
~ God be in my head and in my understanding.
God be in my eyes and in my looking.
God be in my mouth and in my speaking.
God be in my tongue and in my tasting.
God be in my lips and in my greeting.
~ God be in my nose and in my smelling/inhaling.
God be in my ears and in my hearing.
God be in my neck and in my humbling.
God be in my shoulders and in my bearing.
God be in my back and in my standing.
~ God be in my arms and in my reaching/receiving.
God be in my hands and in my working.
God be in my legs and in my walking.
God be in my feet and in my grounding.
God be in my knees and in my relating.
~ God be in my gut and in my feeling.
God be in my bowels and in my forgiving.
God be in my loins and in my swiving.
God be in my lungs and in my breathing.
God be in my heart and in my loving.
~ God be in my skin and in my touching.
God be in my flesh and in my paining/pining.
God be in my blood and in my living.
God be in my bones and in my dying.
God be at my end and at my reviving.”
The Lord is before you to show you the way.
God is behind you to encourage you
God is beneath you to support you,
God is beside you to embrace you.
God is above you to bless you,
God is within you to give you everlasting joy.
May the blessing of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be upon you.
The Bright Field
I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone on my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
the treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.
R. S. THOMAS