Emmanuel – God With Us, God Loving Us

Christmas showed us, God is not an isolationist!

Right now I am reading my way through four books by my favorite rabbi, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (check him out here). I am reading several of the books intermittently. The one I am reading a chapter daily from is To Heal a Fractured World: The Ethics of Responsibility.

Rabbi Sacks provides a thought from another rabbi (Ben-Zion Uziel) who wrote these words around the time of World War II, with its massive Holocaust. This makes his words even more remarkable. (In the original they are one paragraph. I broke it up for easier reading.)

Each country and each nation which respects itself, does not and cannot be satisfied with its narrow boundaries and limited domains. Rather, they desire to bring in all that is good and beautiful, that is helpful and glorious to their national (cultural) treasure.

And they wish to give the maximum flow of their own blessings to the heritage of humanity as a whole.

Each [self-respecting nation] desires to establish a link of love and friendship among all nations, for the enrichment of the human storehouse of intellectual and ethical ideas and for the uncovering of the secrets of nature.

Happy is the country and happy the nation that can give an account of what it has taken in from others, and more importantly of what it has given to the heritage of all humanity.

Woe to the country and nation that encloses itself within its own four cubits and limits itself to its own narrow boundaries, lacking anything of its own to contribute, and lacking the tools to receive from others. (Quoted in Sacks, To Heal a Fractured World, pp. 121-122)

We live in a global time where some nations are seeking to retreat, isolate, and self-protect. Others are seeking to advance, influence, and in some cases, dominate). Neither isolation nor domination is the way of God’s love.

Mutual, self-giving service for the sake of all parties involved is a far better way.

I will make one political statement, and then move right back to some spiritual thoughts.

I, for one, think the United States of America has been at our very best when we have resisted isolation and instead pursued inter-connectedness and partnership around the world. To be sure, we have at times fallen into our own forms of domination that were mostly for our good and didn’t do much for other nations. But, when we are at our best, we connect, contribute, engage, collaborate, and bless the nations. It has been our virtually unique task among the nations to be a refuge/haven/sanctuary nation that provides freedom, responsibility, and opportunity for all who lack it in their own homelands.

The words on the Statue of Liberty still thrill me every time I read them. You can read them here.

This is still an ideal I cherish. I know the political implementation is complex, but I pray for leadership at all levels that has the same vision of human flourishing as do the good rabbis, Uzziel and Sacks, and as did the founding parents of our nation. I also pray that we find public policies that will maintain and advance that old ideal.

Now, back to my area of competency and passion, which is the Word of God and the Ways of God for the People of God so we may better serve the world Loved by God.

I understand that a state may fall way short of God’s inclusive Kingdom. But the church, as the major outpost and signpost of that multi-ethnic kingdom (see Revelation 5:9-10) loves and reaches out to everyone, everywhere.

Living Word, from the beginning, has pursued the heart of God for the world. We have always had a commitment to the nations. We have prayed and discerned particular parts and peoples of planet earth where we sensed God leading us to a fuller service. This is one of the main reasons why God has blessed us. He found us to be faithful stewards with the resources he entrusted to us. We used those resources to bless, serve, and love the world God loves. So, he gave us more resources, because those who were faithful in little things could become faithful with bigger things.

So, I will repeat the question from yesterday’s post: Who is my/our neighbor?

And the answer:
Muslims are our neighbors.
So are Hindus.
And Latin Americans.
And Arabs.
And Asians.
So are secular atheists.
So are Europeans.
So are refugees everywhere.

Which is why we want to bring the Good News of the Lord and Savior, Jesus, to all peoples. And to do so with dignity, respect, humility, faith, and hope.

Living Word has had (and will have even more in the years to come) global connections that matter a great deal. As we have blessed them, they have blessed us.

It is the way of God’s beautiful global Kingdom.
It is the way of love.
It is the way of Jesus.
It will continue to be our way.

At this time of the year, through the generosity and love of the Christmas season, we are invited by God to join with him in the work of the Gospel/Good News to the nations.

Pastor Brian



Brian Rice