This first and second lessons this morning (1 Maccabees 1:1-28 & Revelation 19:1-10) set up an interesting contrast. The former is a tale about the desecration of the Jerusalem temple and a foreign ruler marching to victory against God’s people. The latter is a vision of God’s complete and everlasting victory over sin and evil. It’s funny to me how they get paired together today.
There are moments in my life when God and God’s power are easy for me to perceive. And there are moments when God’s presence seems nearly impossible to discern. Yet the only variable in that is me. God is constant; I am changing. How can I live in both worlds and understand and believe that God is with me despite my inclination to ignore that?
Have you ever been a part of a group or church community that regularly shared the call and response, “God is good…all the time?” It’s a silly little practice, but there’s value to it. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that God is always good even when the world around us seems so wrong. I’m not suggesting that a little catch phrase can turn our darkest moments into bliss, but I do think it’s right for us to engage in regular and rehearsed remembrance of God’s goodness to us. (There’s a stewardship sermon in here, but I’m going to save that for another time.)
The bottom line is that we must be looking for reminders that God is in control, that God is taking care of us, and that God will never forsake us. Occasionally, we have devastating moments like that of today’s first lesson—when the very heart of who we are and what we love is ripped out. Rarely, things feel like the latter lesson—when victories in our lives feel like the rumbling of mighty thunderpeals. But God is still God in both. Faith—the kind of faith that sustains us—depends upon our ability to remember the latter in the midst of the former. How might we remind ourselves of God’s goodness? What practice might we take on to instill that belief more deeply in our lives so that we might cling to victory in a moment of seeming defeat?