Day Two: Where Is Our God?

Psalm 79
Micah 4:1-5
Revelation 15:1-8

A retired accountant opens fire on a crowd of festival-goers from his hotel room in Las Vegas – over 50 dead and 500 taken to hospital emergency rooms for treatment ….

Buildings collapse in Mexico as the earth shakes. Thousands of homes are destroyed and over 360 people are pulverised and smothered by the falling debris ….

Strategic air strikes in Syria – some for domination, some for retaliation, some even in the hope of peace – result in well over 2000 deaths in the region in the month of September alone ….

A father of two returns home from a wonderful family vacation and is found a few days later, hanging in the basement ….

These are merely a few occurrences in the world today that cause people to question “where is my God?” or to curse and taunt “where is your God?”

Is there a particular moment in your life when you have wondered where God is …? 
… when you have felt abandoned or betrayed by God …? 
… when you have considered a terrible or tragic situation as the judgement or punishment of God?

Following the destruction of the Northern Kingdom, the Babylonian conquest was an unimaginable violation for the Jews – not only of their sacred places (the holy city of Jerusalem and the temple where they worshipped) but of their fundamental belief that, as God’s chosen people, they were totally untouchable.

Yet as their dead rotted in the streets without the dignity of burial, and the living were taken into captivity, they felt the scorn and derision of their neighbours keenly: their mocking question, “Where is your God?” echoed the fearful wonderings of their own hearts, “How long will God be angry with us? How long will we be punished for our sins and for the sins of our fathers?”

Reeling with the horror of what had happened and the disbelief that their mighty God would allow those who followed other gods to have victory over them, how difficult it must have been for them to hold onto the words of hope and restoration spoken by the prophets of old!

Read prayerfully through the passage from Micah 4:1-5 again.

Which promise speaks most powerfully to you?

Which image seems impossible or unbelievable given the state of the world today?

Each of today’s Advent readings invites us to examine the way that we think about the so-called “judgements” of God – none more so than the triumphant scene in heaven that John depicts in Revelation 15.

As seven angels carry seven disasters from the temple, the saved ones sing the song of the Lamb (verses 3-4, the Message):

Mighty your acts and marvelous,
O God, the Sovereign-Strong!
Righteous your ways and true,
King of the nations!
Who can fail to fear you, God,
give glory to your Name?
Because you and you only are holy,
all nations will come and worship you,
because they see your judgments are right.   

The season of Advent encourages us to give voice to our doubts, our wonderings, even our angry accusations, “God, where have you been in the midst of my/our suffering!?!” and then invites us to picture what lies beyond the crisis or the catastrophe that we are experiencing.

Salvation will come – rescue, restoration, an era of peace and plenty!

And the question, “Where is your God?” will be answered exquisitely by a personal experience of the power and presence of God acting to pull us from the muck and mess that our sin has made.

Last lessons: Love

*Good Friday: John 18:1-19:42*

And again another passage of Scripture says,
“They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”
19:37

Saving love is costly.

People humiliate us; they try to rob us of our dignity, to strip us bare; they make it their mission to alienate us, destroy us, outstrip us.

Yet love forgives.

Jesus prays for his enemies “for they know not what they do.”

So often we know precisely what we’re doing: we deliberately and knowingly deny, betray, turn away …

… yet through love we are forgiven.

And this love assures us of this: that when we recognize our need for conversion, for transformation; when we acknowledge Christ as Lord and Saviour, we are saved from the power of sin and death in this life and claim the promise of newness, the promise of eternity, the promise of Paradise …

… not as some ethereal vision or distant dream. Even today, Jesus makes life more bearable, more beautiful, by connecting us through the cross to one another in a way that comforts and takes responsibility for our Christian brothers and sisters, our fathers and mothers, our sons and daughters, and indeed, for the whole world.

Yet there are times so dark, so difficult that we wonder how we will survive, endure, let alone thrive on life’s abundance.

In the midst of the darkness, Christ cries out that he has carried out pain; that we are not alone. On the cross, love laments so that we can know that we will never be abandoned, never be forsaken.

In fact, in our fragile humanity, in our needs and our longings, God moves us beyond superficial, surface-level relationships to a spirituality that is drenched in the Living Waters of God’s Spirit.

We praise God today that God’s saving love sees what is started through to the end. In a world of half-done things and best intentions, we are moved by the knowledge that the One who began a good work in us is faithful to complete it.

God is not done with our lives until we find our final resting place in God’s heart; until our spirits rest completely and safely in God’s hands.

Are we ready to offer our lives, our hearts, our love, our all to God’s saving love today?