You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
Jeremiah 29: 2-14
Years ago Holly and I were planning a visit to New Orleans when a church member got wind of our pending trip. He had grown up there and insisted that we meet up with a friend of his who still lived there. When we got to town we connected with our guide, who proceeded to walk us around block after block while telling his family story and the story of the streets of the French Quarter. He pointed out architecture, introduced us to people who ran stores, and had restaurants (by now I am sure you know my love of food) and gave us a sense of the culture and people of the community. It was a fantastic day and years later I remain grateful for the generosity and insight that he shared with us.
During the most recent Modern Worship Podcast, Wes asked me to talk about our upcoming series on Revelation. He chuckled as he asked, "So, you are going to explain Revelation to us in the weeks to come?" I laughed too. Revelation is a book that people seem to talk more about then spend time studying, it has challenging (ok, strange) imagery, and thorough and vividly describes scenes that other portions of scripture treat far more subtly, if at all.
Given that we have been challenging our congregation to be cautiously courageous as we navigate life during this pandemic - I am not sure there is a better book for us to turn to next in worship than Revelation. I do confess as we begin this journey, that my hopes fall short of ‘explaining’ the book of Revelation. I would love to but I suspect such an effort would end in failure. In fact, I am beginning to suspect that the temptation to ‘explain’ is quite similar to the temptation to fix other people, the world or even ourselves.
Our guide in the French Quarter grew our knowledge and increased our understanding of where we were and how to navigate the community but this just scratched the surface of ‘explaining’ a complex culture and city. He didn’t explain New Orleans, he invited us deeper into it. I am confident our generous guide whose family had lived and worked on those streets for generations would laugh if someone asked him to explain New Orleans. I don’t think he would even try. But he can guide folks to a deeper appreciation of the culture and history, he can point out food worth eating and people worth knowing. More than anything, it was obvious he loved his community.
This has been a strange and challenging year but God is good. If someone asked me to explain the last six months I would laugh, perhaps darkly, but I could tell a bit of the family story of University during this time. I could tell of the people who inspired me by casting out fear with perfect love on a daily basis. I could point to the places I saw people offer love, money, and food to neighbors in a time when all three were rumored to be dangerously scarce. I could describe my gratitude at watching University forced to physically distance still pulling closer together and I could share my awe at our staff and leaders creatively and courageously taking the next right step on this wilderness path.
I pray that while my explanations may fall short, that my love for you is obvious,