November 2, 2013 § 3 Comments
In ministry, one of the great privileges we have is to enter into the lives of people. The emotions range from elation to despair, and love is the currency that navigates each moment. You need to know that none of us became ordained hoping to engage in church politics and controversies.
Earlier this week Katherine and I found ourselves at the NICU (Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit) at Mercy Hospital in Baltimore, where we held our breath with an anxious young couple who had given birth to a precious infant son who arrived with respiratory distress. We embraced and offered our pleas to the Father, then waited. Time and the amazing care of the nurses and docs were the means by which God graced that little boy and led him out of danger. We rejoiced.
At some point the baby’s father asked me to pray over their son, and as I extended my finger to his little hand, that precious newborn grasp reflex kicked into gear, and this tiny person, barely awake, and connected to all kinds of tubes, held tight.
There is a spectacular refrain in Isaiah’s prophecy in which the prophet speaks of God, who is understandably offended by the continued rebellion of His people. The refrain is, ‘his hand is stretched out still,’ and it is offered four times in the same breath, literally the same sentence, where Isaiah relays God’s anger. Yet, in the midst of His displeasure, God reaches out to His children.
Interestingly the refrain immediately follows a passage we read each year at Advent (Isaiah 9:1-7). It is more than the gentle assurance of a stern, yet loving Father. It is the promise that God would one day do what we in ministry attempt so imperfectly – that He would personally enter into our madness and mess as our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace.
While there is something in me that wants to believe that God is every bit as merciless as I sometimes feel when offended, the testimony of the gospel is of a Father that has the capacity to express perfect love even when He is rightly disappointed.
And while my instinct is to hide with Adam and every other unfinished sinner in the Redemption story, His invitation remains to simply grasp the hand that ‘is stretched out still.’
Such good news…