Today I have been doing some reading and thinking. I have been reading a book called “Beyond Homelessness” by Bouma-Prediger and Walsh and also thinking about the year to come in Mosaic Edinburgh, the movement of faith I belong to. Those two lines of thought which had been going around in my mind gloriously and serendipitously intersected as I read a section of that book. I am not quite sure how to describe what happened as I read the words below except to say that as much as I have ever heard God’s voice, I heard Him speak to me through them and became surer than ever of what I want to devote my life to. The section from the book that grasped my attention by the scruff of the neck was a reflection on one of the great passages from Isaiah when the prophet talks about the future that the Lord is preparing.
The Glorious New Creation: Isaiah 65
17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create;
For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing,
And her people a joy.
19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
And joy in My people;
The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her,
Nor the voice of crying.
20 “No more shall an infant from there live but a few days,
Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days;
For the child shall die one hundred years old,
But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed.
21 They shall build houses and inhabit them;
They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They shall not build and another inhabit;
They shall not plant and another eat;
For as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people,
And My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
23 They shall not labor in vain,
Nor bring forth children for trouble;
For they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the Lord,
And their offspring with them.
24 “It shall come to pass
That before they call, I will answer;
And while they are still speaking, I will hear.
25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
The lion shall eat straw like the ox,
And dust shall be the serpent’s food.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,”
This is what the authors said
“The Prophet has two words for a world of weeping and distress, two radical words that imagine a different way of life: “NO MORE!”
No more weeping
No more cries of distress
No more premature deaths
No more expropriation of land
No more injustice
No more cash crops
No more children for calamity
No more labouring in vain
Why not? Because God is making a new heaven and a new earth. Creation will again be a site of joy and delight, Jerusalem will once again be a city of shalom. Indeed, all cities will be cities of shalom.
Isaiah offers us an audacious vision of a city that will bring an end to neglect, malnutrition, violence, disease, and premature death. There will be no children crying, because they will not be orphaned by either HIV Aids or overextended parents on on the career treadmill. There will be no expropriated land, because people will be secure in their homes, in a community with neighbours, with food sustainably produced. In this vision our labour is meaningful because we experience a good days work as joy filled stewardship of creation. In this vision we inhabit a city of shalom because it is a place of economic stability, care and generosity. In this vision we indwell a renewed city in a restored creation. Isaiah’s vision is one of economic viability, ecological sustainability, just resource distribution and meaningful work. This is a vision of home rooted in the very presence of God” (Beyond Homelessness p200)
They go on the chapter to say
“We who follow Jesus are called to make this vision of Shalom real. Richard Mouw puts it this way “We must share in God’s restless yearning for the renewal of the cosmos” So in the Lord’s Prayer we pray that God’s Will be done on earth as it is in heaven. In the doxology we sing that all creatures here below might praise God. In the Apostle’s Creed we confess our faith in the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting. And in our everyday lives we strive, with God’s help, to make this vision incarnate. We yearn for the biblical vision of shalom to be made real. We are in short, visionaries. …. shalom is often in short supply. It is known as much by its absence as its presence. And so our yearning is tinged with sadness. We grieve for what should have been. Thus we are not only visionaries, but aching visionaries. We ache because we painfully realise that the time of shalom, in all its glorious fulness, is not yet here. Reflecting on the Beatitudes “Blessed are the mourners, for they will be comforted ” He says Who then are the mourners? the mourners are those who have caught a glimpse of God’s new day, who ache with all their being for that day’s coming, and who break out into tears when confronted by its absence.” ( p228)
Those words move me more deeply than I can explain with mere words, they create an almost overwhelming longing and mourning in my heart. Mourning over what our world is and longing for what God intends it to be. As I think about that future more than anything else I want to be captivated by this audacious God given vision for an alliterative way of living. I want to be part of a community of people who are also so captivated by that vision that, with God’s help, they are committed to incarnating it in who we are and what we do collectively and individually. I want to look at exploitation, injustice, meaninglessness, homelessness, joylessness and cry out with my God and that ancient visionary, NO MORE! I want to give my life to living out those two words NO MORE, I want to do everything I can in my power, empowered by God’s power, to make whatever God says NO MORE to history and to see His future made tangible here and now in a way that makes others long for the day when Isaiah’s audacious vision will be our daily experience.
How about you?