Party at Sunrise

sunrise
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/sbh/5335360630/">Stephen Heron</a>

Isaiah 9:2-7

People who were groping in the dark
Have been enlightened.
Dawn has broken
For those who were living in the night.

You have made the nation great,
You have heightened the nation’s joy,
They rejoice in your presence,
Like the revelry when the harvest is in,
Like when people are looting with gusto what’s left behind .

For the weight of their burdens
And the chains that bound them
And the night-sticks of their oppressors
Have been broken as on V-J Day.
All the boots of the marching soldiers
And all the bloody battle fatigues
Shall be burned as bonfire kindling.

For a child has been born
A son given
Who will be the one in command.
We’ll call him:
An amazing adviser, a powerful God,
Forever our founder, a peaceful ruler.
His empire will extend throughout the world
And finally bring a lasting peace.
He will restore David’s dynasty and empire,
And will administer it fairly and for the good,
So that it will never fall again.

The passion of God will make it happen.

Picture, if you will, the scenes you’ve seen of looters running from smashed storefronts, their faces lit with glee.

Picture the faces of inmates as they emerge from their cells in the midst of a mass jailbreak.

Picture the faces of victorious college students after a football game tossing the dorm furniture onto a huge bonfire.

Picture the faces of soldiers returning home to embrace their children.

Picture the Bacchus revelry of mardi gras or carnaval.

Picture the celebrations in the streets of Egypt and Libya earlier this year when people were celebrating their liberation from years under oppressive dictators.

Picture a party in celebration of the birth of a child.

Put it all together into a wild and jubilant celebration that in it’s wildness is just a little scary, the way in the recesses of your mind you begin to think, “Can this much celebration really be good? Or safe?”

That’s what Isaiah is saying it will be like when God makes it happen.

What happen?

Redemption. Resurrection. Freedom. Peace.

Of course all of these things will be the end of the world as we know it. And of course, none of these things is safe.

Go ahead, Isaiah says. Bring it.

Another Look at the 12 Disciples

12 Disciples
12 Modern Day Disciples by Kiiroi Yumetobu

Matthew 10:1-4

Then Jesus called out 12 of his disciples, and he sent them out to get rid of evil spirits and to make people well. Those sent out are:

  1. Pete,
  2. Pete’s brother Drew,
  3. Jim Zebedee,
  4. John Zebedee,
  5. Phil,
  6. Bart,
  7. Tom,
  8. Matt (“the Collector”),
  9. Jim Alphaus,
  10. Thad,
  11. Simon (“the Heathen”), and
  12. Judas Iscariot (“the Traitor”).

It can’t be just coincidence that all of these characters are named after people who were heroes of the Maccabean revolution.

During the Greek occupation of what is now Palestine and Israel, in the wake of Alexander the Great, the Maccabees led the revolt against the imperial occupation. You can get most of that story from several books of the Apocrypha. Short version: the Greeks set up a statue of Zeus in the temple at Jerusalem and all hell broke loose. Eventually, the Greeks went home (and the Romans moved in).

But now, years later, people were naming their little boys after those great Maccabean rebel warriors. Why? Because they wanted those little boys to grow up and kick the Romans out the same way their namesakes gave it to the Greeks.

So out of the whole crowd of disciples following Jesus, he picks this band of people with revolutionary names to do what? Carry out a revolution. They’re doing what? Getting rid of evil spirits, “casting out demons.” Whichever euphemism you pick, they’re going to go kick butt and redeem the people. Sounds like a revolution to me.

It’s the method Jesus chooses that’s peculiar. They’re not going out with swords and bombs, without provisions or even spare change. They’re going out as the world’s first movement of itinerant peace activists.

Revolutionary!

It can’t be a coincidence.

Don’t Stress Out!

Philippians 4:4-7

Let Jesus make you into joyful people. Rejoice, I say! Be gentle with people. Jesus is right there, so don’t stress out! Bring what’s on your mind, along with your gratitude, to prayer. When you do – it’s beyond explaining how it happens – your mind and heart will be at peace, in touch with Jesus and with the eternal.

My mother used to say you get more flies with honey than with vinegar. Behind all the excuses people give for not wanting any part of Christianity may well be that so many Christians tend to be dour, pessimistic folk. Sometimes its the feeling that you have to watch your step or someone will get upset with you. Other times it’s all the talk about how hard it is to keep the church up and running. “Maintenance mode.” Nobody wants to sign on for that!

Dour Christians and stuck churches are not what Paul had in mind. Despite his reputation, Paul, like Jesus, wanted people to enjoy life. And it’s hard to enjoy life when people are so rough on each other and so stressed out about so many things. In this regard, prayer helps. For one thing, it can help balance what we need with what we already have. And, though prayer is not a substitute for actually dealing with the problems that face us or for doing the work that needs done, regular meditation provides a space to expand our vision, explore new approaches, and gather strength for the tasks at hand.

Stop. Don’t take it out on someone else. Don’t freak out!
Clear your mind. Relax. Breathe. Be grateful.