Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace—
in peace because they trust in you.
Trust in the Lord for ever,
for in the Lord God
you have an everlasting rock.
For he has brought low
the inhabitants of the height;
the lofty city he lays low.
He lays it low to the ground,
casts it to the dust.
The foot tramples it,
the feet of the poor,
the steps of the needy. Isaiah 26:1-6 (NRSV)
Lofty cities are laid low.
I admit it, I long for the day when the feet of the oppressed walk freely over the rubble the high flyers have made of the world. Poor Iraq. The Congo. The Pacific garbage patch. Nuclear waste stored all over the country. Isaiah seems to be hearing the trampling: the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy, on their way to God’s city. I admit to longing for the trampling.
I am not sure that God will fulfill my vengeful dream. And I am pretty sure my true self does not truly dream it, anyway. It doesn’t matter so much what the end will be when the rubble of our city is piling up on the oppressed right now! Pondering some future repay is less important than pondering whether we have any capacity to dig people out of the rubble piling up outside the door. There is not a lot of time to care about how to get even with who did this to us!!
I still remember Parker Palmer On Bill Moyer’s Journal saying that his personal depression was mirrored in and mirroring the depression of our financial system. At our breakfast table yesterday we were wondering if we were feeling the same way about the persistent deterioration of our school system and the pernicious political philosophies that have a foot on the necks of the poorest people in Pennsylvania who are our neighbors and who attend our public schools. The feelings were alarming.
I know many depressed and distressed people right now, and the number seems to be growing. They amplify the regular distresses that face the church. Such rubble making was evident last week – sexual immorality took a toll; financial issues oppressed people; fear drove people to be self-sufficient, wary and critical; people like Parker Palmer had their feelings overloaded.
I am a bit like Palmer. When my alarm bells go off and my feelings are overloaded, I need to keep my mind on God. I need to consider whether I am being too “apocalyptic” when times are hard. I need to wonder if I should or should not be quoting 2 Timothy 3: “There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, (etc)… lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God– having a form of godliness but denying its power….They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over the weak-willed, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires.” Seeing the rubble, feeling the despair, naming the problems form a good first step toward digging out of it. But a good prophet, like Isaiah, does not let it stop there.
When Isaiah’s city was being brought low, God gave him a vision of the city whose walls are God’s salvation. When we were pondering our sorry state the other day, my visionary friend, Joshua Grace, said, “Something wonderful must be about to happen.” That’s the spirit (and the Spirit)! I’m not so old yet, but I am old enough to know that bad times (like a personal depression) are often the beginnings of the next great time. If we can just keep our minds on what God is going to do (who makes something out of nothing, after all!), we can have some peace in the midst of our mess!