Dr. Grant Scarborough
Pocahontas died 400 years ago. I do not remember her story very well. Someone asked me recently at a museum, “Who did Pocahontas marry?” I muttered a name – it was wrong. She was a Native American. I do not know what type. She married a Puritan I think. I cannot remember anything she said. I’m not sure she ever spoke. She never speaks in the paintings I see of her. In fact, without internet and a good school system – I would have never heard of her name. Let me tell you what I remember: my grandparents. At least I remember 3 out of 4 of them. After that, my memory goes dark. But 400 years ago, I remember nothing.
But God remembers. He spoke in the book of Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, and then it was quiet. Quiet for 400 years. People would have said, “Remember that time when God spoke?” The response would have been “No, not really.” There is a scroll, but it is old. And no one probably had a scroll in their house – maybe the synagogue.
But God spoke. It was in the scroll of Malachi, and then he was quiet for 400 years. If you look at the last words of Malachi and the Old Testament, it reads, “ Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
Then silence. Silence for generations, decades, and centuries.
But before he went silent he promised something. He promised Elijah and then the Lord. And what were they supposed to do?
You see, this is why I am writing – I was tracking pretty well with Malachi until here. Yes, of course he was sending Elijah and the Lord to, obviously, save me from my sins. AMEN! Thank you Jesus! The problem is that is not what it says in Malachi. I hate when the Bible does not agree with me.
Malachi says that they are coming to turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. Well let’s be honest – that does not fit in my religiosity theology of why Jesus came.
Thankfully, there is a New Testament. So let’s leapfrog 400 years of silence and go to when Jesus spoke. Zechariah, an old prophet was performing his yearly duties in the temple. He went in to make sacrifice to God for all the people of Israel. He was met by an angel. And once again, God spoke! Oh fear and joy combined! God is alive and not forgotten His people. God returns! God speaks.
“Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
400 years is a long time – but not for God – for God it is but a moment. He literally picked up right where he left off in Malachi, it is like he took a deep breath and then kept right on speaking. Yet for us it was 400 years. He never lost his train of thought: “to turn the hearts of the father to the children.”
This is not the gospel I learned growing up. Don’t blame my parents – it is not the gospel I have taught my kids. Jesus did come to save us from death, to make us a new creation. But it appears he focused on more than my individual well-being.
Malachi and Luke tell me, he came to restore families. He came to return children to their fathers and fathers to their children. In the community behind MercyMed where few men are around and almost no one is married, this is great news. God is concerned about their individual salvation, but he is concerned with the salvation of their families as well. In fact God has an even bigger plan.
The last verse of Luke says, “to make ready the Lord a prepared people.” It doesn’t say “a prepared person.”
This struck me so powerfully, in this culture where we grow up, it is all about the self. It is about the individual. America is about life, liberty, and pursuit of my own happiness. But God is building a “people.” He is building a community. A community where individual redeemed people are returning to their fathers and fathers are returning to their children. Where a redeemed “prepared people” group is carrying the burdens of others. Where un-redeemed individuals can see the love of Christ worked out among redeemed people.
The body of Christ is not displayed in an individual, but a community of individuals. God is building community – a prepared people.
I am still processing this idea. But I believe God wants to redeem individuals, families, and communities.
John and Jesus both started out preaching the exact the same sermon. “Repent the Kingdom of God is at hand.” The Lord’s prayer: ‘…Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It is not just Your will – it’s Your kingdom come – here on earth just as God’s kingdom is in heaven. The kingdom of God is not in our heart. It is displayed as a community – just like God’s community in heaven.
Do you see what God is longing for? A kingdom! Just like His in heaven! It is a kingdom where the gospel is seen through the interaction of each other. God is calling us away from a personal relationship with him that is kept to ourselves and to something greater. A community – His kingdom come. Life lived out among other people, where Christ can be seen.
This is my prayer for North Highland and Bibb City. That through the work of MercyMed and other community partners, we usher in the kingdom of God. Couples actually get married. Dads are playing with their kids in the park. Streets are safe to walk down. And the shalom, peace, of God abounds. Visitors to the community will encounter God as one redeemed individual cares for the elderly redeemed individual; and one redeemed individual prepares a meal for their poor redeemed individual; and yet another stands up for the rights of children.
God’s kingdom come – the great plan of God. Redeemed individuals, families, and communities. I think it is time to focus on our community!