“Begin Again”: A Weekly devotional for a New Year, Week 4

‘”I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”’

Acts 2:19-21

Sometimes we wonder if the world is ordinary after all. We can go days, weeks – years even – believing life is about the normal things that everyone strives for: A job, a family, a home, a vacation (or two), Friday nights with friends, retirement.

But then the world – and everyone in it – become something very different. It’s almost like someone stops the ordinary music we were listening to, and an eerie silence makes us stand up and take notice. Things start to happen that we can’t explain. People we thought we knew, change dramatically, and for the worse. We begin to see “signs on the earth below”, and become more and more convinced that this is definitely not the ordinary, normal world we thought. Much more is at stake than our ordinary set of desired outcomes. It turns out that things like souls, the fate of nations and generations, healing or decline, are at stake.

The last, several years have been that kind of time for most of us. We have seen many, not so good, “signs on the earth”, and any reasonable person has probably thought: “I wonder how this is all going to work out? I wonder if we’re going to be okay?” We’ve seen a lot of what I would call “negative signs”: things, events, people that cause us to worry – signs like the “blood, fire, billows of smoke… darkness”, mentioned above. And we are right to worry. You would have to look back more than a hundred years to understand the time we’re living in.

If we look even further back – to the time of the early church, in the Book of Acts – we find positive signs, too, that tell us God is working out his loving, abiding, eternal purposes, even when we feel like we’re surrounded by negative signs. The chief, positive sign is that people who are dramatically different, come together to make one family – the church.

Just think of two people you know, who could not be more different: Race, class, gender, political party, whatever. Now, what would it take for them to show up in the same place, week after week, and work at loving one another like family? “A miracle.” Exactly.

If you’re not part of that miracle, this is your invitation. If you are part of it, but it doesn’t act like the miracle it should be, don’t expect someone else to do it – maybe all the “blood and fire and billows of smoke” only stops when we put aside our differences and ask God to do something miraculous. “Be the miracle you want to see?” Nope. Everyone’s trying that, and it hasn’t been pretty. If we were already awesome, and only had to try harder to “be the miracle” , things would be very different.

Instead, this Sunday, pray with people who want to be that miracle. Big difference. All the difference, because it begins with the frank admission that the answer, the change doesn’t come from us.

Prayer: Lord, the last few years have been strange, and sometimes, awful. I’ve seen people change, and not for the better. I have changed, and maybe not for the better. Events seem bigger and badder than we can possibly manage. We’ve tried hard, but it hasn’t worked. In fact, things have gotten worse. I believe you can make a lasting change that begins with me, so please use me Lord to become a part of your family, and to start something new and better on the earth. Amen.

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