If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people
impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear
during the time of your exile. (I Peter 1:17).
Today we conclude our look at the Preamble of Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony:
1. As followers of Jesus Christ,
living in this world—
which some seek to control,
and others view with despair—
we declare with joy and trust:
Our world belongs to God!
2. From the beginning,
through all the crises of our times,
until the kingdom fully comes,
God keeps covenant forever:
Our world belongs to God!
God is King: Let the earth be glad!
Christ is victor: his rule has begun!
The Spirit is at work: creation is renewed!
Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!
3. Still, despair and rebellious pride fill the earth:
some, crushed by failure
or broken by pain,
give up on life and hope and God;
but still hoping for human triumph,
work feverishly to realize their dreams.
As believers in God,
we also struggle with the spirits of this age,
resisting them in the power of the Spirit,
testing them by God’s sure Word.
4. Our world, fallen into sin,
has lost its first goodness,
but God has not abandoned the work of his hands:
our Maker preserves this world,
sending seasons, sun, and rain,
upholding all creatures,
renewing the earth,
promising a Savior,
guiding all things to their purpose.
5. God holds this world
with fierce love.
Keeping his promise,
he sends Jesus into the world,
pours out the Holy Spirit,
and announces the good news:
sinners who repent and believe in Jesus
live anew as members of the family of God—
the firstfruits of a new creation.
Back on March 15, the first day we suspended Sunday worship gatherings, one of you asked me if the Bible makes reference to times like these, when we cannot gather. It does, in a very prominent biblical theme, that of exile. Perhaps in the future we will have time to explore this theme in detail; for today, let me just share a few thoughts about how it relates to today’s paragraph.
During the terrible time of the exile of the Jewish people to Assyria/Babylonia, when they were suddenly physically distanced from their Temple, the people had to learn a new way of being a God-worshipping community, Through the prophets, God instructed them to live into their exile: “It will be a long time. Therefore build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce” (Jer. 29:28). As they did so, they were continually reminded to continue to live as God’s covenant people (for example, Is. 58-59).
The New Testament employs this theme of exile to help us understand how we should live in this world. Obviously it is not talking about COVID-19, it is talking about how we should always conduct ourselves as Christians in this world, separated, as we are, from our true home (Phil. 3:20, Heb. 11:13-16). We are encouraged both to live into our exile and remember who we are. The New Testament book which speaks most clearly into this is 1 Peter, written to the Diaspora, believers scattered across the Roman Empire. “Holiness and fear” are Peter’s two chosen words to characterize how we should conduct ourselves as exiles.
The wonderfully realistic, yet optimistic, Paragraph 6 of Our World Belongs to God speaks well to how we should conduct ourselves in exile. God has us here for his covenant purpose. Although we are impatient for universal justice, we are also confident in the light of Christ and the goodness of God. While we wait, we partner with God to bless the world we are in, dedicated to holy living. Living this way, scattered or gathered, we can maintain the tension that always exists, and always will exist, when we live for God in exile.
So, people how God, how will you choose to live today?
“Lord, we live with tempered impatience for the end to this virus pandemic and the end of all injustice. We rejoice in your goodness and we praise you for your light, Jesus, shining in our darkness. Thank you for making us partners in your covenant work. Set us free for holy living and joyful obedience. We offer our hearts and lives to you today.”
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
As we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Our song today is an arrangement combining “Blessed Be Your Name" with "You are the Everlasting God” by Caleb and Kelsey, suggested by Sandy.
Go with this blessing:
The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.
PS – My online office hours Thursday will be 11am-noon and 1-1:30pm. If you want to connect or just say hi, just click that link and come by at your convenience!