Friday, November 4, 2016

Our Future Faith

Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:

You who seek God, let your hearts revive. - Psalm 69:32

Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. - Hebrews 12:1-2

Two-year reading texts: Psalm 119:153-160; 1 Kings 1:28-53; John 12:1-11

I was surprised to read more of Psalm 69 today and discover that this present-moment word of encouragement - "You who seek God, let your hearts revive" - is actually connected to a future vow. In this Psalm, David writes about the challenges he faces: opposition, enemies, discouragement, abandonment. He uses the powerful image of the Pit, and mire, and drowning, to describe what it's like to feel overwhelmed by it all. But he turns to God in faith, praying and hoping and expecting that God will bring salvation and deliverance and restore him to safety and honor. With confidence in God, he then looks forward to being on the other side of all the challenges, and pouring out praise and thanksgiving. It's in that section that verse 32 comes. Basically, he's saying "I'm gonna be singing and praising God so much, you all can be inspired by it RIGHT NOW."

And maybe he's right! Maybe this is the way hope and faith work. While we're in the middle of our challenges, we lift up our eyes from obsessing about the problems, and look instead to the destination that lies ahead of us. Before we've seen any proof that we'll get there, we're inspired by the power of the vision. God, who is ahead of us in that end time, reaches back into time and draws us forward toward it. Our hearts are revived. Our Lord, the "pioneer and perfecter," is the one who gives us the strength to persevere and keep on running the race. There is a reality set before us, with specific and palpable challenges. But what we do is keep pressing on, all the way to the goal.

Again today, the election coming up in a few days is on my mind. There are always real and meaningful consequences to elections. But every time, it also seems that the political parties and commentators ramp up the emotions and our sense of what's at stake. Every time, friendships are strained, and people who could generally be good friends come to eye each other with suspicion because they have different political views. Just today, I saw an article about a church where it was preached and published in the bulletin that you were bound directly for hell if you voted for a certain candidate. So while the challenges we've been conditioned to fear may be imaginary or exaggerated, the challenges of division and conflict are very real.

Five days from now, the election will be over, and we'll be coming to grips with the results. Whichever presidential candidate wins, there will be hype that picks right up from the election hysteria and proclaims that the world is over, the antichrist has taken power, and something will have to be done. The only question seems to be which side will be shouting about it, and the details of the conflict will look a little different depending on the winner and loser. There will likely be complaints about the election being "rigged" or votes stolen from the one who ought to be the rightful winner.

What if all of this is more Pit and mire? What if our sense of drowning in it all is in large part because we've bought into the hype, the belief that any political party or candidate can be our savior? What if our overwhelming sense of opposition, enmity, discouragement, and abandonment is just another challenge that our God is more than able to overcome? And what if - together, across party lines and other barriers that would become divisions among us - what if we lift up our eyes and think less about the problems we see, and more about God's vision for our future together?

I, for one, will accept the results of the election. I may feel gladness and relief, or I may feel anger and depression. I may feel called to work in the same or the opposite direction as the next president. Either way, I'll resolve to keep working as actively as I can for the political and social and religious values I believe are best for the world. I don't believe that our differences define us. And though our decisions have real and important consequences which will make life better or worse for millions of people, I believe that God's power is still greater than that.

Whatever the challenges we face now or in the future, the ultimate future is God's. In Christ we find the vision of human life redeemed and made holy and extending into the ages. May we lift up our eyes to him, and be inspired. May our hearts be revived. May he be our strength, and our goal, as we keep on running the race that's set before us, wherever the course leads.

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