Saturday, March 12, 2011
Barreness and Emmanuel (God is with us)?
My pastor has suggested that we join him in reading through the gospel of Luke as our Lenten discipline -- as the one thing we might do for God during Lent. So, yesterday I read the first chapter of Luke and was struck by two words -- two words that upon first thought had no connection whatsoever and that's precisely what made me meditate upon them all the more -- barrenness and Emmanuel. After meditating upon them, I came to the conclusion that they were more connected that what I originally thought. Mighty acts of God always follow when a biblical writer proclaims a woman is barren. When we hear the word barren in scripture we should hear that to mean more than the fact that the woman's womb is without child but also to mean that a spiritual desolation or dryness exists for the people of God at that time. In this first chapter of Luke, that's exactly what God's children were experiencing. God's prophets had been silent in regards to the coming messiah and his people had become spiritually barren because God had been silent for so long. I would certainly understand if God's people at the time had sort of given up hope that the messiah would ever come, especially considering that God had been silent for about 400 years. Anytime we give up on hope we are without a doubt spiritually dry or barren. Anyway, back to the story today -- And then God tells us that Elizabeth was barren. Like I said earlier, I've learned to pay attention when that word comes into play within the scriptures because God is going to do something really big next and that's precisely the case in our story today. God tells Zachariah that his wife will bear a child, a son and his name shall be John. Pretty miraculous considering that Elizabeth is well past child-rearing age. You would think that would be big but apparently it's not big enough because right after that we hear that another woman's womb (Mary) holds God himself, Emmanuel, which means God is with us! As I put these two words together, barrenness and Emmanuel, especially in light of the season of Lent, there seems to be this lingering question within me, "As I wait for the celebration of the resurrection and allow God to deal with the barrenness within my soul (the sin within my soul that only he can mend or darn), can I sense God's very presence with me, even though this work that he is doing is painful and quite difficult?" The grace of this season for me is that God's presence is in no way limited by my experience of his presence -- he is Emmanuel! I must simply trust that he is present because that's the truth of the gospel, my friends! Still, I must admit my barrenness and I must let God act -- submit my soul to him to do the work only he can do! I pray that you will the do the same!