Friday: Psalm 58-60; Isaiah 33; Matthew 8.1-22

From: Sally Jackson

This past weekend, I turned over the first several pages of Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, a book that is homework for the BU MBA course I’m accompanying to Israel this March as part of my work. The course focuses on the unique innovation ecosystem that has evolved in this small country, now a world leader in new ideas, agriculture, and technology. Right away in the introduction to the book, the late Israeli President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres presents a pretty simple, yet captivating, framework for understanding Israel’s economic miracle:

“People prefer remembering to imagining. Memory deals with familiar things; imagination deals with the unknown. Imagination can be frightening – it requires risking a departure from the familiar… The seeds of a new Israel grew from the imagination of an exiled people… The exile left the Jews with a prayer and without a country… With the establishment of the State of Israel, this great prayer was planted in a small land. The soil was obstinate, and the environment was hostile. On our ancient journey from Egypt to Israel we Jews crossed a huge desert, and in modern times, too, returned home to more desert. We had to create ourselves anew…”

So basically, Shimon Peres proposes that the practiced imagination of the Jewish diaspora, returning to the infertile and barren new State of Israel, helped it harness its ideas and communities toward making a sustainable society and create, quite literally, streams of water in its midst. The country was built on millennia of hope and prayers and imaginings, and not much else.

This is what I was thinking about when I read Isaiah 33. Once again, for maybe the dozenth time, Israel faced drought and desolation at the hands of Assyrian invaders. Imagine was possibly one of the few things Israel could do as it faced conquest by its enemy and the scattering of its tribes. Israel once again seemed broken, despised, languishing, desert-like (Isaiah 33.7-9), hanging in the balance as another foreign rule lingered. Even so, Isaiah proclaimed—his prophetic voice strong and his imagination ripe with truth and hope—that Israel would again and eternally behold a life-giving land with a beautiful saving king as its Lord. We know, of course, that he spoke of our eternal Lord Jesus, but the Lord gave a foretaste of that promise when he restored Israel from Assyria and restored its land. Even in Isaiah’s time, a pattern had been established that when facing the bleakest droughts, it’s worth it to imagine how the Lord can generously create a prosperous and peaceful future.

This is again what I am thinking about today, Inauguration Day. For many of us, it seems we have an unending desert of a presidential term before us, and maybe the country we woke up to today doesn’t look like the country it was yesterday. It’s hard for many of us to see through the dust or believe that our national policies, or our international relations, or our reputation could possibly be better down the line. Yet, we have seen that God not only promises us a heavenly kingdom, but quite often intervenes in our present political realities. He has shown us that brilliant, unexpected, unimagined things can come from deserts. Even through sinful leaders and divided nations, the Lord has reigned and will reign, and he produces a bounty for his people. He has promised us a restored earth and redeemed hearts, and he regularly makes good on that promise with previews in this life. So we can choose to join him, setting aside some of our cynicism and doubt because of the patterns in our new President’s past, and imagining a future that departs from those patterns. The Lord may well have some exciting miracles up his sleeves, and those miracles may come sooner than we think. So let’s imagine (and pray, and act), as God’s people have been invited to do all along, so that we may be a part of it.

I'm super excited about about the roots I'm putting down in Boston and having called CotC home for 2.5 years. I love that through church I get to serve through hospitality and welcome and music, which is how I'd choose to spend pretty much every waking hour if I wasn't working with my awesome students at BU. Let's get coffee/go on a roadtrip/have a party/see Josh Garrels sing!