Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Profiting from the Prophets, #3

Megan Clanton grew up in the Woodward Park church and is the proud daughter, granddaughter, and daughter-in-law of some of our good friends and current Woodward Park members. She is a Harding grad and a very gifted writer. I have been blessed by the fact that Megan has joined blogdom and you will be blessed as well by her writing and insight. Check out her "Glass Still Half Full" blog here.


With the beginning of a new school year comes the beginning of a new commitment in my life. The last two years have been a logistical mess and Trae has been affected most by our moves and the uprooting it has caused in her schooling. So, not only has Mandy committed to volunteer in Trae's class every Friday afternoon but I have committed to volunteer for two hours every other Tuesday morning.

Yesterday marked my first volunteer opportunity in Trae's classroom. I was delighted to learn that I was the only dad who signed up to volunteer in Trae's classroom -- it's all mom' me! On day one, I sharpened pencils and refilled glue bottles and three-hole punched paperwork to go into the kid's homework packets.

What so interested me as I spent a full hour-and-a-half in Trae's classroom was the ethnic diversity to which she is exposed. For the first couple years of schooling, everyone in her classroom looked and talked and thought just like she did. Now, she is in a setting that is much more realistic of the world she will live in.

Tuesday's Fresno Bee, in an opinion piece entitled "What's a Minority These Days?" noted that non-Caucasians now constitute a clear majority in 303 counties within the U.S. (including a third of the most populous counties). In California, 57% of the state's population of 37 Million is classified as a minority. Fresno County is the third most diverse county in the state with roughly 60% non-Caucasian and nearly 40% non-English speaking.

Again, what some might perceive as an encroaching problem should be viewed by disciples of Jesus as a blessing. According to Paul, we who are "citizens of heaven," should view reality in light of what is best for kingdom expansion. As such, I thank God for bringing to our doorstep, even to my daughter's classroom, the nations of the world.

"Going into all the world..." takes on a whole new meaning in an immigrant-rich culture. The world is coming to us...are we ready?


The book of Isaiah is one of the earliest prophetic writings in the long line of prophecies that close out our Old Testament Scriptures. Written in the 8th century (contemporaries of Isaiah would be Amos, Jonah, Hosea and Micah), the first 40 chapters sound a warning of judgment on Israel and Judah should they choose to continue to live in rebellion, unrepentant to the call of God on their lives. The last 26 chapters, however, capture a different tone as hope for the future, especially in the coming of the forecasted Messiah, rises to center stage.

Experiencing the prophets in Scripture is an exercise in "having our toes stepped on." For example, consider these words from Isaiah 1.11-17:

"'The multitude of your sacrifices -- what are they to me?' says the LORD. 'I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations -- I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hand in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.'"

The prophets' have no interest in our artificial distinctions of the sacred and the secular. What I do on Tuesday away from the assembly of the faith community is as much a statement of my faith as my commitment to gather with the faithful. Doesn't it seem as though Isaiah's in-your-face message is directed at a people who thought their "Sunday morning" faithfulness could mask their "Friday night" hypocrisy?

The assembly has never been an antidote to cover over a prejudiced, jaded, duplicitous heart. Social responsibility in upholding the dignity of others is a spiritual duty granted to those in union with the God of heaven. In an extremist world, where society inevitably marginalizes people en masse, it is the duty of the disciple to do advance encourage the downtrodden...invest in the needs of intercede on behalf of widows.