Preaching the Praises of God

“Get, out of bed, Jerusalem!
Wake up. Put your face in the sunlight.
God’s bright glory has risen for you.
The whole earth is wrapped in darkness,
all people sunk in deep darkness,
But God rises on you,
his sunrise glory breaks over you.
Nations will come to your light,
kings to your sunburst brightness.
Look up! Look around!
Watch as they gather, watch as they approach you:
Your sons coming from great distances,
your daughters carried by their nannies.
When you see them coming you will smile–big smiles!
Your heart will swell and, yes burst!
All those people returning by sea for the reunion,
a rich harvest of exiles gathered in from the nations!
And then streams of camel caravans as far as the eye can see,
young camels of nomads in Midian and Ephah,
Pouring in from the South from Sheba,
loaded with gold and frankincense,
preaching the praises of God.” (Isaiah 60 1-6, The Message)

This was good news for the exiles. The people were just returning to Jerusalem from exile in Babylonian Captivity. In a commentary, Dirk Lange writes, “In Jerusalem, a major conflict had arisen between those who remained and those who returned. Living conditions were extremely difficult. Jerusalem was in ruins. The people were now divided again not against some outside threat or enemy but among themselves.” (WorkingPreacher.org) Now the prophet comes with words from God. The prophet speaks of smiles, sunrise, brightness and light. This means their lives will turn around for the good.

This is such a contrast to the darkness the Israelites have known, the darkness that we see so much of in our world. I’m still thinking about the situation in Central African Republic (CAR). Since December 10 the rebels have been on the move capturing one town after other. Like those in sixth century BCE Central African Republic is a country divided among itself. The issues of unmet promises, continued poverty and disappointment in how the government has run in the last ten years is, I suppose, a reason for this conflict.

Mona, one of my friends sent me a message on facebook after reading my last blog post. She wrote, “your post sounds like de ja vu to me. At this time in 2003, I was on my way to take a call in Central Africa Republic. I had my psych evaluation, had my shots, was ready to transition . . . and fighting broke out and ELCA missionaries were evacuated.”Ten years, has anything changed?

I am learning that the history of Central African Republic has been fraught with conflict. In 1960, CAR became an independent country after decades of colonilization by France. The transtion from colonial rule to indepedence began peaceful enough, but after six years a string of coups began. The last coup took place in 2003 when Francoise Bozize achieved the presidency. A historical report stated that his goals were to promote national reconcilation, strengthen the economy and hold elections. Yet, ten years later there is rebel uprising and unrest.

Through out the bible there is unrest, war, conflict and violence and yet God is present with the people. We learn from Isaiah 60:1-6, that God does not wait for the people to get their act together, but comes. Yes, in the midst of our dark and broken world, God comes shining a light through the incarnation of a babe born to Mary. God comes, not as a result of our own actions, but insipte of us. To be certain, God is present with the people of Central African Republic even at this dark hour.

At this writing, there seems to be a halt in the movement of the rebels, but the conflict is not over. Looking from the distance of my Chicago desk the fighting seems to be at a stand still. What will become of the peace talks that are to take place in Libreville, Gabon? Will the president hear the complaints of the rebels? Will the rebels take the advice of mediators? Will others be sent into exile?

Exile, might be the word to describe the ELCA missionaries who were evacuated. There is the possibility that the lives of Susan, Jackie, Deb and Joe will take an unexpected turn if an end to this conflict is not seen, as my friend’s life did ten years ago. But what of the lives of the people of CAR who have been or will be displaced? What about those who will lose their homes and livelihoods if the fighting resumes. As you can tell, I am just learning about the people, and country of Central African Republic. What I glean from my learning is that violence and uprising, no matter the cause, is probably the last thing this country needs. Of course, violence is the last thing that any country needs. The smiles, sunrise, brightness and light, of God is needed. Sitting at my Chicago desk, as we enter the season of Epiphany I can only pray and ask for light to shine in CAR. We can only pray for God’s continued presence.

Let us pray:
Gracious God, be with the people of Central African Republic. Watch over those whose lives have been disrupted. Give the leaders wisdom. Imbue these leaders with a sense of fairness and justice. Help all involved in this conflict, government official and rebel, consider the people. Influence them with the love you have so freely given. Enable them to see the revelation of this love through Jesus the Christ. Let us as we pray to see the light at the end of the tunnel of rebel activity. And may we, in discussing this dark conflict, speak of God’s light and “preach the praises of God.” In Jesus name, Amen.

God’s Peace,
I am westafricabound

(As, I post the rebels have taken over two other towns–so much for a stand still.)

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