“Hey there! All who are thirsty, come to the water! Are you penniless? Come anyway—buy and eat! Come, buy your drinks, buy wine and milk. Buy without money—everything’s free! Why do you spend your money on junk food, your hard-earned cash on cotton candy? Listen to me, listen well: Eat only the best, fill yourself with only the finest. Pay attention, come close now, listen carefully to my life-giving, life-nourishing words. I’m making a lasting covenant commitment with you, the same that I made with David: sure, solid, enduring love. I set him up as a witness to the nations, made him a prince and leader of the nations, And now I’m doing it to you: You’ll summon nations you’ve never heard of, and nations who’ve never heard of you will come running to you, Because of me, your God, because The Holy of Israel has honored you.” Seek God while he’s here to be found, pray to him while he’s close at hand. Let the wicked abandon their way of life and the evil their way of thinking. Let them come back to God, who is merciful, come back to our God, who is lavish with forgiveness. “I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work.” God’s Decree. “For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think. Just as rain and snow descend from the skies and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth, Doing their work of making things grow and blossom, producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry, So will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed. They’ll do the work I sent them to do, they’ll complete the assignment I gave them. “So you’ll go out in joy, you’ll be led into a whole and complete life. The mountains and hills will lead the parade, bursting with song. All the trees of the forest will join the procession, exuberant with applause. No more thistles, but giant sequoias, no more thornbushes, but stately pines—Monuments to me, to God, living and lasting evidence of God.” (Isaiah 55, The Message)
One of my favorite things to do is to look at the stars at night. They remind me of how small I am and how vast God’s Universe is. They remind me of how amazing Creation is, and how expansive God’s imagination is.
So often, we want to box God in–make God fit what our minds can hold. As we plan our future and present ministries, one question to ask is: Are we leaving enough space for the Spirit? Are we noticing where the Spirit is taking us?
God is out-of-proportion, huge, big, beyond our imaginings. One of the biggest challenges before us today is allowing our minds enough space to imagine the infinity of God. That’s hard spiritual work, especially when we want neat, clean answers and solutions to all that we face. We want a God who fits into our design, our world, our issues, our lives. Not the other way around.
This is why I look at stars all the time, because it helps me get out of the narrow ways of thinking I (and all of us) are so easily tempted into and reminds me again that God is huge, beyond anything I am capable of imagining or dreaming.
NASA oftentimes posts pictures that the Hubble Telescope is capturing. These are my favorite, because the Hubble is seeing things that we can’t see here. Here’s my newest favorite image:
Here’s the description from NASA: “Sparkling at the center of this beautiful image is a star located about 30,000 light-years away. The distinctive blue bubble appearing to encircle the star is a nebula — an interstellar cloud of dust, hydrogen, helium and other gases. The bubble — estimated to have formed around 20,000 years ago — is expanding at a rate of around 220,000 kilometers (136,700 miles) per hour!”
Puts nearly everything I’m up to into perspective. Just ponder this star for a moment and your place in the Universe Story, the Story of Creation. God is beyond us, near to us, and creative beyond everything we can conjure up! What a beautiful and also terrifying thought!
In Isaiah, God is also offering the gift of infinity. There are the words: For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think. Imagine with me how big the sky is that soars above the earth….that’s the Universe! God is promising us in Isaiah that the Divine-work will be as large as this, that the Divine-thought will be beyond what we can think. In Isaiah God talks about a covenant that is lasting and which stretches out before and behind us. Again, expansiveness of love and energy. God is so much bigger than we can imagine! God’s love is beyond what we can even put our minds or hearts around!
For me, these ideas (mind-boggling as they might be) are the Good News during this moment we are in regarding the life of the Church and our world. So much under our feet feels like shifting sand, it’s hard to find our footing. We worry about the minutia (scarce budgets, resources, less people-power, etc.) rather than taking the time to notice where God’s expansive imagination and deep abundance is at work right in our midst in our local context.
During this third week of Advent I’d like to invite you into the spiritual practice of claiming God’s abundance.
Whenever you hear talk of scarcity–look for where God is offering another way that points to resources and new life.
Whenever you feel as though there is not enough–open your eyes to notice all that is around you that you did not notice before.
When you hear talk that is filled with fear and judgement–find and go and be with those who are pointing towards God’s love and care.
Whenever you hear an idea that keeps the community boxed in–look for the ideas on the outside that the Spirit might be pulling us towards.
May God’s Spirit continue to accompany you on your Lenten Journey. God is doing a new thing all around us. God is expansive and infinite. And we have much more than we imagine we do!