by Pastor George Van Alstine

“Lift up your eyes and look around;
they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from far away,
and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms.
Then you shall see and be radiant;
your heart shall thrill and rejoice.”

(Isaiah 60:4-5)
That’s what you see when you lift up your eyes, when you look up.
When you look down, you see only
“darkness covering the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples.”

(verse 2)

Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God as a bright reality that coexists with the darker reality of everyday life. Others thought of the Kingdom of God as something far into the future, something to be longed for, an ideal that could not be experienced in this life. But Jesus had the same vision as the prophet Isaiah, who lived centuries earlier. He revealed to his followers that God’s Kingdom was just as present as this moment and just as tangible as what they considered reality. It was just a matter of choosing where you look. Look down, and you will always be depressed by thick clouds of darkness. Look up, and the whole panorama of God’s glory will light up before you. It’s a daily choice, an every-moment choice.

Is your spirit sagging today, your feet dragging? That’s because your eyes are on the ground, so that you can only see the deadening hopelessness of this earthly life. But hear the challenge of the ancient prophet:

“Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
Nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawning.

(verses 1, 3)

❖ ❖ ❖

I HUMBLY BEG YOUR FORGIVENESS. There, I got your attention, didn’t I? I humbly beg your forgiveness for the prejudice behind last week’s article, “ABC’s Vacation Bible School.” I listed various VBS directors over the years at ABC who have passed on the mantle of leadership down from one to the other. Glenn Molina gently reminded me that Sarah Fiala had served as the director for the years before he did and that she should have been mentioned. I humbly ask Sarah’s forgiveness, and gracious as she is, I’m confident she will grant it.

But there’s a larger issue: Why did I forget to mention Sarah? As I thought about this, I realized I had been reminiscing about a train of young men who in their turn grew into this leadership role. On a sub-conscious level, Sarah didn’t qualify because she was not a young man. That’s right, I’m confessing to insidious latent sexism. And that’s why I’m asking forgiveness from all of you, not just from Sarah.

I’ve been amazed at how stubborn prejudices are. Decades after I think I’ve resolved feelings and attitudes I’ve grown up with, they pop up again in my consciousness, usually stimulated by some stereotypical image. Any of you had the same experiences?