The Presence of God makes everything a lot more interesting. Because He is here, the typical assumptions need to be set aside. “Tremble O earth at the Presence of God…who turns the rock into a pool of water/ the flint into a spring of water.” (Psalm 114:8)
Rock into water! At one moment with dry mouths and chapped lips we’re looking about for our hiking shoes and wondering if we’ll have what it takes to summit; the next we’re burying our beards into the life-giving water, lapping it up. Thus, the Presence of God among His people transforms the most stubborn of hardships into fresh outlets of grace.
Or, to use the language of the letter of Hebrews, the Heavenly Father disciplines His children with things that seem difficult in the moment, but which turn out for their good – that is, a higher yield of peace and productivity and harmony with the world as it is.
Discipline from the Heavenly Father doesn’t turn up infrequently, or arrive in stops and starts. Rather, it’s all around us. Everything in the Post-Eden world has at least a dash of discomfort. So everything is useful to the Father as discipline.
It’s when the pain is particularly sharp and/or when it comes through some unlikely conduit that we need some reminding about the nature of the discipline: the LOVING Heavenly Father is behind the pain. It is, in fact, discipline: by His adept handling it will turn into something productive.
Usually, the Father’s discipline is only uncomfortable. But sometimes it is shockingly painful: then you can hardly believe there is that much pain to be had. Then, it beggars belief that it could be sourced in a Being who calls Himself Father.
The Father’s discipline doesn’t come only when His child is disobedient. The Father’s discipline can be compared to that of a coach’s. Think about a coach, who has included under his supervision the couch potatoes and the Pepsi-drinkers (bad for athletes!) – those who need a fire lit under them. And the coach has hatched up something reaallly fun for these slackers!
But the coach also has goals for the workout warriors, the good performers – there’s always room for improvement! If you’re already running a 4.8 second 40 yard dash (that’s good)… more squats and stretching and sprints (that is, PAIN) will have you down to a 4.7 soon enough.
Discipline for the slackers and discipline for the devoted. Discipline for All!
So, in a word: I’m following “Count it all joy” James in appealing to EBC that you recognize the Father’s hand in the pain of coronavirus. Something good is going on. There’s opportunity here now.
In particular, this is an opportunity for those of us who are worldly followers of Christ to hear anew the perennial call from Heaven: “Come out from her, my people…” (Revelation 18:4)
Come out from Babylon, that is, the name given to the City of Man, the way of living that for a time is alluring and intoxicating and seemingly successful, but which on closer inspection is built on lies, excess and smugness.
Importantly, Babylon – the industry and inter-relationship of men that has set up itself away from God – will be brought down, “in a moment.”
Brothers and sisters, when, as at this moment, the gears in the major systems of the world suddenly slow-down, anticipating its ultimate collapse, we are being granted the message again:“Come out from her, my people.” There’s no future in Babylon.
EBCers, I don’t have to advise you that with this phrase God is NOT beckoning us to pack our bags and go anywhere. NOR is the message that we should stop working in the economies of the world, rubbing shoulders and do business with all kinds of people.
Rather, the message here is to repent from our worldliness. With the arrival of the coronavirus, the message from the Heavenly Father to His worldly children is REPENT.
Brothers and sisters, so don’t read this slow-down as a threat from some nameless evil. Rather, hear our Heavenly Father! Today He is giving us a time and space to repent.
Stop for a second and consider: don’t we need to hear the call to repent?
Typically, we wake up and head out to our concerns rather unthoughtfully, and it’s easy to drift away from being attentive to God and drift into all the aspirations and assumptions of Babylon. And all the while we smooth over the drifting by retaining some religious thoughts and religious verbiage.
But one day as we’re heading out to the same old drifting away and drifting into, our Father meets us at the entrance of our business and says:
Go home and wash up.
Clean up your act.
Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings
so I don’t have to look at them any longer.
Say no to wrong.
Learn to do good. (Isaiah 1: 16,17a)
Repent from what you’re doing. Repent to learning how to do what you should be doing.
Exactly from what or to what do we need to repent? Truly, “we all stumble in many ways,” and a daily repentance is always in order. But the Holy Spirit highlights certain habits that can easily insinuate themselves into the actions and attitudes of God’s people:
“See to it that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” (Heb 11:15) If you are at odds with your spouse, or with your adult child, or with a member of the Church, or with your mom or dad, use this time for digging – shovel away the ancillary issues, lay bare the real problem… and then uproot. There will be those reading this e-mail who are at odds with some brother or sister. Strive for peace. REPENT.
“See to it that no one is sexually immoral” (Heb 11:16) – perhaps your habits of entertainment or web browsing or imagination have crept where they should not. Perhaps there is a relationship that needs an aspect of it to be pruned away before it gets out of hand. Use the time to gather your thoughts and make plans to do, or not do. REPENT.
“What then shall we do?” Luke 3:10ff – a reader would have to be quite inattentive to miss the number of times that we are exhorted to honesty in our work and a particular kind of faithfulness in our stewardship. Now is the time, now we are being given the time, to check in with our work habits and poke around for dishonesty or carelessness or laziness. Now is the time to review our spending and savings to probe for greed or ‘living in luxury’ (Rev 18 – I appreciate the gray areas) etc. REPENT
“See to it that no one is… unholy like Esau” (Heb 11:16) – Here is a general directive, helpful because it’s general. Now, in this pause, is the time to remember our unique calling as children of the Father and our unique vocation to walk in love as children of light. Brothers and sisters, we need to be called away from the love of this world and to be recalled to our status as CHILDREN. Stop, as it were, surrendering your birthright to momentary ease, fitting in, pleasing yourself, thoughtlessly following your appetites, letting Babylon (i.e., the world) set your agenda. Beyond this age, there’s another age. When the sound of bridegrooms goes silent in Babylon, the wedding feast of the Lamb is about to get started. Wait for it. Commit to waiting and looking for Jesus. If the citizens of Babylon are moved to flee from their doomed city, it will be only as they see a people, children of the Heavenly Father, intent on coming out from her. REPENT