Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday of the Third Week of Advent

“Thus says the Lord GOD, who gathers the dispersed of Israel:
Others will I gather to him besides those already gathered.”
Is 56:8

So often in scripture do we hear about the fervor that God has to tend to His lost sheep. Jesus says how the shepherd would leave his flock in order to find that lost one, and rejoices when that one is found. The message in that is clear, and so very true: repent and God will gladly draw you home. Here we have God speaking through Isaiah say something similar, yet distinctly different. 
We all have those friends, you know, the ones that never really had a religion. They are the friends that we envied when we were kids. They never had to go to Mass on Sunday, they got to watch MTV, and their parents were cool. I’m not sure how the last point happened, but it always seemed to happen. Maybe some of us were even those kids. These are to whom God is speaking today. It seems odd, right? God has spent nearly 6,000 years speaking to the Hebrews promising them redemption and relationship with Him, yet here is God utilizing the mouth of a Jew to speak to non-Jews, in this case Babylonians! Now, in my childhood, I would as my dad for the reason that we had to go to mass, or why I wasn’t able to do certain things. In his infinite wisdom, and a response that many other Christian children have heard, “If you go to church on Sundays, you will go to Heaven.” I reasoned that if this were true, those who didn’t go to church didn’t make it into heaven. It’s that little bit of peace you feel when you see the person who cut you off rear-end someone else down the road. It’s justice. But that isn’t quite what God is telling us. 
The Hebrew people wanted the same retribution and reward that we all want when bad things happen to us. In terms of history, few peoples have truly endured the suffering of conquered and enslaved people like the Hebrews. They wanted what they felt they deserved. Yet, here we are today, those of us who are a part of the redeemed. How many of us can count the Hebrew people as a part of our ancestry? I am certain that very few. Most of us are a members of a Church gathered together sanctified by God, thankfully not by men. 
The reality that God has put forth is that many of those same kids I once envied are either unhappy with their lives or sit right next to me on Sunday. They are the ones who have yet to see the Light that God sent to the world or they have given up what they once had to follow that light. It is those people, former (and current) sinners that God uses to teach us His great love: that the only limit we put on a relationship with Him exists within our own hearts. 

How often do we open up our hearts to those who are different from us?
Do we forgive or condemn those who have done wrong to us?
Do we allow people who live different from us to garner our attention instead of God?

reflected by Matthew Keppel

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