Friday, January 21, 2011

God's Hand

Friday, January 21, 2011 -- Week of 2 Epiphany, Year One
Agnes, Martyr at Rome, 304
To read about our daily commemorations, go to our Holy Women, Holy Men blog:

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 944)
Psalms 31 (morning)       35 (evening)
Isaiah 45:18-25
Ephesians 6:1-9
Mark 4:35-41

We enjoy another lyrical passage from Second Isaiah speaking praise of God.  Isaiah offers a universal vision of God "who created the heavens... who formed the earth."  He invites the nations to gather and acknowledge the universal sovereignty of Israel's God.  "There is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is no one besides me."

Yesterday, and earlier in 2 Isaiah, the prophet announces that this sovereign and universal God, the only God, "aroused Cyrus in righteousness."  Cyrus is the Persian commander and emperor who challenged and eventually defeated Babylon.  Cyrus permitted the exiles of Israel to return home and he authorized the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple.  Earlier in this chapter, the prophet speaks of Cyrus as God's anointed -- messianic language.  "It is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.  For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I surname you, though you do not know me.  I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides me there is no god.  I arm you, though you do no know me..."

Isaiah sees God's hand at work in the work and person of someone who does not know God, someone who is a follower of another religion and from another culture.  Isaiah asserts preeminent praise to God and simultaneously praises one who does not know God as nonetheless being an instrument of the only God, a means for goodness and blessing.

Isaiah offers us an opportunity to see God's hand in all acts of goodness, righteousness and justice from any culture and from any religious tradition.  When I see the compassion and sanctity in someone like the Dalai Lama I see a life called and anointed by God.  Like Cyrus, God has aroused the Dalai Lama in righteousness.

Isaiah also invites us to see God's hand at work through events that do not look like religious events, through people who do not look like religious people.

I invite you to go to the Facebook page "Praying for Jonathan Chavez."  Jonathan is a four-point graduate of Rogers High School who is in the Honors College at the University of Arkansas.  He is a gifted singer and has sung in our choir.  He is also an undocumented alien, having been brought to this country from Peru when his parents came here years ago on a legal visa.  The visa expired.  His father didn't understand the immigration system and failed to complete some part of the paperwork.  Although the rest of Jonathan's family are now citizens, Jonathan got to his 18th birthday before that process was final.  He's what some people call an "illegal."

During the Christmas break Jonathan took the bus from Fayetteville to visit his mother in Florida.  As he got off the bus INS/ICE officials rounded up every person getting off and demanded their identification.  (Sounds like a totalitarian country, doesn't it?)  He's been incarcerated ever since.  He has a hearing next week.  This could stretch out a long time; there is a strong chance that he could be deported to Peru, away from his family and friends.

Yet Jonathan sees the hand of God in all of this.  He is participating in five Bible studies in the jail, translating sermons and Bible studies for fellow detainees.  He is witnessing to drug dealers and criminals, and he says he sees God working through him every day.  He hopes to be given a rare Deferred Action judgment so he can return to Fayetteville to complete his degree.  He's two semesters from graduating.  But this semester has already begun.  My friend Carolyn Ford who taught him says he is a genius who has a wonderful voice.  I've talked to his friends who say he is the most optimistic, encouraging person they know.  Three people who told me about him describe him as the ideal All American young man.  Yet he is likely to be deported because we have an unjust and dysfunctional immigration system.  (And our Senate just missed an opportunity to give people like Jonathan a path toward resident status when they failed to break the Republican fillibuster of the DREAM Act.)

Jonathan is undaunted.  Like Isaiah seeing God's hand in Israel's exile and in the rise of Cyrus, Jonathan sees God's hand in his arrest and detention.  Jonathan will be fine, for God is with him.  This nation may lose one of our best and brightest, but God will be with Jonathan.

To learn more, and to advocate for Jonathan, go to the "Praying for Jonathan Chavez" Facebook page.



At 9:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, i can't believe that failure of a president didn't get this passed while he has the opportunity. Instead he was bailing out fat cat Wallstreet donors to his campaign. I think he knew this would bill would not pass when the republicans took over so he waited so he could blame them and call them the party of "no". Its shameful to be holding these people as pawns in some political game. "Yes we can", should be changed to "no we didn't"


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