It might be easier to preach the gospel and expound upon the ‘Good Book’ if the stories told and the struggles contained weren’t so dratted relevant.
If they were filled with flying chariots and water dividing prophets, super-human beings laying despots down in vast swaths of righteous wrath, think what a time a preacher of the book could have. But, to my rhetorical sorrow, they are not.
Now I can see some of you leaning forward with an eagerness that gives rise to an uneasy feeling that I might, finally, have overstepped. After all, aren’t stories of miraculous events performed by God and Prophets strewn throughout the entire Hebrew and Christian Scriptures?
Well, of course they are. But there’s a lot of figuring things out too. In and amongst the begats and the begones and the beholds, people try to make sense of a world gone slightly insane. Maybe more than slightly.
In Isaiah the strong take what they want: the beloved of your heart; the children of your hearth. You and your family are at home in one moment, and either taken to the cities of the enemy, driven away to seek refuge, or left behind to starve in the rubble of your cities, in the next.
A century and a half later Isaiah writes of exiles returned, looking to God for help as they try to convince those left behind that the land of their father’s, father’s, father’s, father should belong to them. “Just step aside and we’ll take over. It’s God’s will.”
More centuries pass and in Matthew the Roman Empire descends, enslaving children, destroying faith, dividing to conquer. Folk are told to do their duty to temple and empire, to priest, landowner, and tax gatherer.
What do prophets say? Isaiah says prayer and church attendance alone won’t make this pass. Live your faith. Treat one another with grace and dignity, share what you have, spread love on wounds like ointments on sores, bring the Spirit’s water to parched souls. Be light and you will bring light.
Jesus sees and names the blessed: those who seek the Spirit; the mourners; the meek; those who hunger and thirst for right relationship; the merciful; the pure in heart; the peacemakers; those who seek right relationship and are persecuted; those who follow the Way and are reviled.
He tells folk to go into the world and salt it with blessings. Shine the light of love in every corner and let every blessed one know they are held in the heart of Love. ‘I come to fulfill the ancient covenants of our faith.’ he says, ‘Call the people into Love’s Promised Land. You will be reviled. Do it anyway. Be blessings.’
It might be easier to preach if I could proclaim that righteous wrath will descend upon havoc wreaking, hatred sowing, harm causing Empires and their servants. If I could uphold the promise of a rod of god breaking structures of power and casting down the powerful.
But scripture does not tell us that; life does not tell us that.
God is active when we seek to be blessings, when we seek the blessed: the peacemakers and those seeking right relationship. When we stand with the reviled. Some will be at worship, and some will be bewildered, confused, hurt and filled with anger at those who worship.
Holding light in the Love of God, let us stand together. Let us hold fast and refuse to let go. Let us invite the fearful to join in the Love that is God.
God insists. Isaiah proclaims. Jesus calls. How shall we respond?
Keith’s Letter and prayer as BC Conference President can be found at