Remaining faithful always, even when nothing seems to change
By Vernon Broyles III | Presbyterians Today
But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” — 1 Kings 19:4; 8–10
Done right, service to God is not an easy task. From the beginning, the people of God struggled with the issue of faithfulness; and those who were chosen to lead them, especially the prophets, were often confounded by the worldly challenges around them and the inner challenges of disobedience within the community of God’s people.
The church of Jesus Christ, born out of the life, death and resurrection of our Lord, and blessed by God as the fulfillment of God’s promise to make all things new, has often fared no better. We have had mutinies within the Christian family over basic differences of interpretation of God’s instruction and internecine struggles for earthly power and privilege. The claim has been made that we live in a “Christian nation,” but where is the evidence?
If it is true, why the gross discrepancies between those awash in wealth and those who struggle for daily bread? Why do those in power slam the door when so many are following Jesus’ mandate to open their arms to welcome the dispossessed and the stranger? Why do some claim we do not have a racial problem, while people of color are hounded by law enforcement and their children are exiled to substandard schools in the ghettos?
Many who yearn and work for the day of justice cringe when they turn on the television every day, wondering what new crisis or tragedy will be reported. And no amount of trust in “government by the people” assuages the anxiety over what government agencies and high-ranking individuals will do next.
Many of God’s leaders labor tirelessly to change these realities, but it is hard not to reach the same point of consternation that Elijah and other prophets did, crying out over the din of ecclesiastical conflict, “Lord, these people have so muddled the image of Christ in their tribal wars that I could just die!”
And yet by the power of the Holy Spirit, God continues to use people of faith to God’s glory. Earthen vessels that they are, through them God carries out the divine purpose. What better time to rejoice amid frustration and despair than to approach Holy Week celebrating Christ’s victory over the grave and to renew our hope in God’s faithful promise that the future is in God’s hands!
Vernon Broyles III is a volunteer for public witness in the PC(USA)’s Office of the General Assembly.
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