In Defiance of Despair

December 2, 2020

One of my all-time favorite Scripture passages is found in the book of Habakkuk 3:2.

“Lord, I have heard of your fame;  I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.  Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known;  in wrath remember mercy.”

These words form the beginning of a prayer about judgment, justice, mercy, and hope. They have formed and informed my prayers for many years now.

I think I pray this so often because I am concerned about how easy it is to live off of, and minister out of, the memories of what God has done in the past while missing what He wants to do today. I tempted to seek out the places where the bush once burned, and God spoke rather than following where He is going and listening to what he is saying. I am afraid that if I am not careful, I will have more memories of what God has done than dreams of what He wants to do.

As a student at NTS, I was a fairly young Christian. I had fallen in love with Christ in college, but in seminary I fell in love with His Church. I remember walking the halls of the seminary and seeing the pictures of all of the former graduates and hearing the stories of what God had done in and through so many of their lives. I remember sitting in class and seeing the pictures of the apostles on the walls, thinking about how their lives had been so radically changed by the person and presence of Jesus.

I remember hearing Dr’s Weigelt, Noble, Truesdale, Robinson, Coleson, Deasley, Bratcher, Schwanz, and so many others share with such joy, passion, and hope as they talked about the dynamic work of God in the world. I recall taking preaching classes with Dr. Boone and Dr. Busic and seeing the bush burn again right in front of me.

These were not just people with great memories of things God had done. They were modern-day disciples. They were like the disciples on the walls who had been personally impacted by the person and presence of Jesus. Jesus was using them to impact me.

NTS prepared my wife and I to be ministers of this same Gospel with which they had been entrusted. My experience at NTS helped us grasp just how big our God is, sharing with us an understanding of what He had done and instilling in us a sense of anticipation of what God was still wanting to do.

Recently, like so many others, my world was shaken when we were struck by this pandemic. Pastoral leadership during this season of social, political, and societal unrest has been difficult.   I think the first words out of my mouth were, “seminary didn’t prepare me for this!” Now, nine months into this pandemic, I will admit I was wrong.  This is exactly what we were prepared for.

As a member of the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition whose history is rooted in compassion and whose strength is a love that lives in defiance of despair, this is exactly what we are prepared for.  While we may live in a world in which a spirit of fear has driven out love, we know that perfect love can drive out fear.

This perfect and perfecting love has invaded our lives and sanctified our hearts. Because of this, we do not possess the dead faith of the living. We embrace the living faith of the One who was dead and rose again.

Yes, this is a dark time for many of those in our communities; So dark that they just might just be able to see that bush burning and hear God speaking.

This Advent season, we remember not just what God did, but what He has promised to do. We remember the infinite One who became an infant. We remember that when the Christ child opened his eyes, we began to see. We remember that we have seen not just a burning bush but the very face of grace.

This is what we have been prepared for!

So we wait, not with a spirit of resignation, but with anticipation driven by a love and a hope that lives in defiance of despair. We are a Spirit-led people who have not only great memories of what God has done, but dreams about what He is going to do. We can pray, “Lord, we have heard of your fame; we stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.  Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.”

brian-thomas-nts

 

Rev. Brian R. Thomas, D. Min.
NTS Trustee, Class of 2002

 

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