by Hal Turner
April 8, 2014
April 15 2013, It had been a long day driving to Atlanta and back twice over. The news was somber all day. Two bombs had gone off in the crowds for the Boston Marathon. Pain and Panic there. So finally back at home and already depressed I surfed the internet. A friend posted about smoke downtown from our Church. Quickly we chatted and he sent a link so I could listen directly to the radio traffic between fire, police and city management on the ground. There were two fire hoses on the fire, and the fire captain was attempting to start a third. But the water pressure was too low. He spoke with the utilities manager about increasing water pressure. He stated he could flood the lines with untreated water if the fire chief “declared a city emergency.” There was a long pause. The fire chief responded, “no, I can’t do that.” That long pause was likely him balancing the burden of citizens having to boil water for drinking vs the odds of saving the church. But the church was not going to be saved, no matter the water pressure. With his words “I can’t do that,” I knew it was a total loss.
My story is very likely similar to your story. That moment of loss leaves you feeling so empty. You find a slightly bitter taste in your mouth. You feel like you need to do something but you have no idea what it is. The following Sunday we worshiped at Young Harris. Lisa shared passages from Psalm 137 and Jeremiah 29 invoking imagery of the Jewish captivity and exile to Babylon. Presented with a choice between living out the misery of Psalm 137 or the hope of Jeremiah 29, we chose the later. Out of our hardship we would gather new strength growing individually and as a church.
The Imagery of the exile would spark my curiosity and I have spent many hours studying Isaiah, Ezra, and Deuteronomy finding many new insights. I hope I have established over the last few weeks how Ezra shows a divide opening between Samaria and Judah. With the same heritage they were children of the same God, but had become mortal enemies. Jesus broke through that barrier. Jesus chose a path laid out by Isaiah. He began his ministry with Isaiah’s words by proclaiming in Luke 4 – “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Deuteronomy spells out several groups barred from the community: certain foreigners, sexual minorities, and barren women. Isaiah asserts specifically that each of the groups has a place in God’s house. Jesus lived out that idea. Being in the minority I take comfort that Jesus appears to be much more attentive to Isaiah’s words than the words of Ezra.
April 15 was a painful day, but it opened up spiritual growth for me.It made each of us look closer at our church and what we mean to each other. The building is gone, but all the things that made it special are alive. The saints long gone are special because of the love they shared not the pew they sat in. The prayers are more important than the altar. The enthusiasm of the choir is what matters not the acoustics. Across generations we share the stories, find relevant meaning from them, comfort each other, and challenge each other. I don’t know about you, but I know I am more alive than ever thanks to April 15, and thanks be to God.