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Sometimes we just have to admit that the world is host to a lot of brokenness. I often marvel at the beauty of Creation, the goodness of people and the hopefulness of life but that doesn’t hide the truth that those larger blessings are regularly slashed and attacked by the sin and evil around us.
I recently learned that West Virginia is one of the hotbeds of drug abuse in the U.S., particularly opioid addiction. This has happened for a number of reasons but primarily due to the physically taxing work environment and higher risk of injury requiring medication. Then, a number of years ago, the region was flooded with prescription drugs and so the predicable complications multiplied.
Related to that information was a recent news focus on a West Virginia day care centre which specializes in caring for babies and toddlers who were born to addicted mothers. These children have special needs due to the effects of drugs during their development.
The day care is the first of its kind and there is a long waiting list of those hoping to access the unique service. That service is, simply, to patiently hold and care for troubled babies. These are everyday people who have seen a need and have quietly found a way to do what they can to help. Creating small ripples of goodness.
Naturally, as the workers were interviewed it became apparent they were passionately invested in their work but that they also found it to be difficult and emotionally draining work.
You see, drug addiction doesn’t just affect the user, it affects their children, spouses, parents, grand parents; it affects their friends and friends of friends; it affects daycare workers, social workers; it affects the environment, economy, community. Ripples of brokenness.
In a broader sense, any kind of sin doesn’t just affect the user, it affects their children, spouses, parents, grand parents; it affects their friends and friends of their friends; it affects workers and employees; it affects the environment, economy, community.
Imagine Jesus, Son of God, dropped onto this selfish, dangerous planet. On one hand he is intimate with the world, creator of its goodness, lover of it all, but on the other hand it is broken and abused. For Jesus to know how much goodness and joy was available and yet to live within its sadness and selfishness would have been unthinkably difficult.
So what did he do about it? He went around, doing good and teaching people the truth about God.
Imagine yourself, dropped into a high-density urban housing complex filled with violence, poverty and addiction, where normal life is so different from what you know. Imagine you have to find a way to spend your life there. Not a good feeling, right?
But here’s the thing: you have been. Just like Jesus, you’ve been dropped into the middle of a dangerous, sad, hopeless world.
Just like the West Virginia day care workers, the only way to make goodness happen is to stand up in the middle of it and replace it with grace and peace. Ripples of Jesus.
I’m not saying we remain silent or accept it or become part of it; I’m saying we overcome it by acting in spite of it.
Does that sound too big for you? From the Lectionary readings, here’s what happened to the great prophet Jeremiah when he was challenged to make ripples:
The Lord gave me this message:
“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.
Before you were born I set you apart
and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”
“O Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!”
The Lord replied, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!” Then the Lord reached out and touched my mouth and said,
“Look, I have put my words in your mouth!
Today I appoint you to stand up
against nations and kingdoms.
Some you must uproot and tear down,
destroy and overthrow
and plant.” – .Jeremiah 4:1-10 (NLT)
Is there sin, darkness, brokenness around you? You were chosen to make a difference.
Stand up and tear down. Uproot and replant. Right in the middle of it all, God will put his words into your mouth.
Another Lectionary reading from Isaiah confirms this to be God’s wish for us:
Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.
“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
Feed the hungry,
and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
The Lord will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring.
Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.
Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls
and a restorer of homes.
“Keep the Sabbath day holy.
Don’t pursue your own interests on that day,
but enjoy the Sabbath
and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day.
Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day,
and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly.
Then the Lord will be your delight.
I will give you great honor
and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob.
I, the Lord, have spoken!” – Isaiah 58:9-14 (NLT)
We don’t have to make waves to make a difference, we just have to stand in our place and make ripples. Rebuild and re-water and restore. Make ripples where you are.
If God’s people will stand together, the ripples will cover the world.