Last night I spoke to our Wednesday night group about Isaiah 40, the passage where God, through the prophet Isaiah says "Prepare for God's arrival. Make a road straight and smooth, a highway for for our God. Fill the valleys, level off the hills, smooth out the ruts and clear out the rocks. Then God's bright glory will shine and everyone will see it."
I love this passage. It is inspiring, radical and challenging because it is about the arrival of Jesus that (in John 14:6) is the way (our road) the truth and the life. For me and you and all of the Church, our road is here. We know our destination and we also know that our primary focus is not about getting ourselves there. It is about loving others enough to sacrifice, lead, love and tell what is necessary to get them to God's place. In fact, our mission is never about ourselves ... it is about others. We are servants. We are missional. We are outwardly focused. And by being in this servant posture we are uniquely prepared to lead others along that straight, smooth road fit for our God.
Last night I began to think of this image in the context of Abbeville United Methodist Church. How can we make the road straight and smooth? How can we bulldoze centuries of dirt and muck so that everyone that comes in our doors sees a straight path to Jesus? How can we fill the valleys? Maybe Celebrate Recovery does this for some folks because it welcomes anyone to come and realize their valleys are not as deep as they once thought. How can we level off the hills? Maybe our high places (they are spoken of negatively in Scripture) need to be brought down to a level that everyone can get in ... low enough so that our table truly becomes the Lord's table that invites anyone calling upon the name of the Lord. How can we smooth out the ruts? On roads ruts happen and they need to be found and patched. We should look often and be willing to patch the places that become barriers to some of "the least of our brethren." And how do we should clear off the rocks? We call them what they are ... rocks like our denomination's name (which can become an idol), our lifestyle that we perceive as both better and justifiable, our possessions which have always been barriers to God's call, our institutions which lead us away from devotion to God (remember this when you sing "I Surrender All"), and our submission to Jesus' clear and perfect Gospel message which should change us into a path to Him.
I know that is a lot to take in. You are probably asking, "What does he mean?" I want you to think about that. If we are called to make a straight path for and to our God, how should we do it? Maybe we should do what the old song says ... "nothing in my hand I bring, only to the cross I cling." Our denominational differences, our music styles, our prejudices, our stuff, our ideas about what "our God" is like, our idols and our sports teams mean nothing to Jesus. God seeks our hearts. He is knocking at the door. Let's let Him and anyone who comes with Him in! Randy