The glory of the Lord rises upon you
REACH director Gary Gibbs considers how Jesus-followers should posture themselves post-pandemic.
Well, my friends, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not the proverbial oncoming train.
We have passed the one-year anniversary since the pandemic really took hold of the West. It has felt very much like the words of the prophet had come to pass: "See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples..." (Isaiah 60:2).
The darkness of Covid-19 with its attendant illness, anxiety, fear, depression, and death itself, has covered the earth. The light of closeness, physical touch; the kiss of a loved family member has been dimmed for most of the past twelve months.
And yet in the midst of the gloom, Isaiah declares: "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you... the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you." (Isaiah 60:1-3).
Changing the metaphor from a tunnel, once again we find the promise of the Lord: "Even though I walk through the darkest valley I will fear no evil, for you are with me..." (Psalm 23:4).
It would be unreal to suggest that the people of God have been immune from the pain, difficulties and heartache; there have been times, sometimes extended periods, when we have held on to God by the skin of our teeth.
Or, to be more accurate, he has held on to us, otherwise we wouldn’t have made it through to the degree that we have, even though we bear the scars.
So, what now? How do we posture ourselves as Jesus-followers post-pandemic? Two things in particular give me immense hope.
We have lived through similar experiences to our neighbours, friends and work colleagues. We know, in various degrees, the same pain and emotion.
The good news is that we also know the one who has stuck by us, and will continue to do so. He binds up the broken-hearted and the broken-bodied, as well as mending those who have a broken friendship with God.
The one we follow is a wounded healer, even though he now bears perfect wounds. As the hymn says: "Those wounds yet visible above in beauty glorified."
In a Christ-like way, we are sent out into the world, not as those who have all the answers, but rather as ‘wounded healers’.
The second reason for hope is this. I have seen the church of Jesus Christ rise up and serve their communities in astonishing ways over this long season.
We have fed the hungry, cared for the lonely, reached out to those in all sorts of need, and shared in words the love of God. Now, all of this is good and godly in itself, but I believe there will be a wonderful dividend.
Let me explain...
It’s not just the Proclaimers who have walked 500 miles (did they ever, or just sing about it?). Over the months since March I must have done at least that around the country lanes near where I live.
Being a city boy, it’s been eye-opening to watch what was sown in the early part of 2020 grow, develop and come to the point of harvest.
The physical principle is also true spiritually: if we sow, we will reap.
During the past year, there was an incredible amount of gospel sowing going on. I believe that as we emerge from the tunnel, the light of the gospel will pierce the hearts of many lost people, like a laser going through steel, and bring many to a saving knowledge of Jesus.
Let’s not hold back, church. Through the summer and autumn, the fields will be white for harvest.
We must step in and swing the sickle, the sword of the Spirit, perhaps with these eight words: “Would you like to begin to follow Jesus?”
The harvest will be waiting.
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