Where Else?

January 13, 2019

Series: January 2019

Category: Faith

Speaker: Rob McClellan and Guest(s)

Isaiah 43:1-7

1But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob,

he who formed you, O Israel:

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by name, you are mine.

2When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,

and the flame shall not consume you.

3For I am the LORD your God,

the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

I give Egypt as your ransom,

Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.

4Because you are precious in my sight,

and honored, and I love you,

I give people in return for you,

nations in exchange for your life.

5Do not fear, for I am with you;

I will bring your offspring from the east,

and from the west I will gather you;

6I will say to the north, "Give them up,"

and to the south, "Do not withhold;

bring my sons from far away

and my daughters from the end of the earth —

7everyone who is called by my name,

whom I created for my glory,

whom I formed and made."


Where Else?

          It is a breathtaking statement of divine solidarity:  “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…when you walk through fire you shall not be burned” (Is. 43:2).  This is how a particular people, ancient Israel, whose stories included slavery and exile, heard the divine voice coming to them, God acting in their communal life.  All of it begs the question, “Where else?”  Where else does God speak, Spirit move, way appear?

          If we gather in church only to hear about how an ancient people experienced God working in their midst, with no attentiveness to the possibility of it in ours, are we not engaged in a study of history or myth-history or some form of spiritual archaeology and not an active practice of faith?  I had a New Testament professor in seminary who once asked why we needed preaching every week.  Why couldn’t we simply sit around and talk about where we saw the risen Christ at work in the world?  Sure, we can be wary of those who claim a direct line to God’s clearly delineated will, and yet we can let that wariness totally stifle our spiritual lives.  However, that’s why we tell our stories in the context of community, so we can hold each other accountable and discern the Spirit together.  Sharing can help us cultivate the ability to look for glimpses of the mysterious work of God in our midst?  Glimpses may be all we get.  

          That’s what we plan to do today.  Testimonies are a regular part of some churches’ practices, but we don’t tend to use that terms in churches such as ours.  Today, we offer up a couple different examples of how Spirit, God, Christ if you will might be at work not only in the overly dramatic but in the day to day.  I pray indeed that God will be with us when we pass through the waters and the fires, and yet most of life is lived in between them.  We hear from Mark Sachs and Polly Chandler today, members of this community.  Their examples may be of them experiencing something from beyond, or something emerging from within.  You can call it testimony.  You can call it storytelling.  I call it God extending and making good upon the promise made to the ancient people of Israel to we who are here, now…

Mark Sachs:

I started a nonprofit called RestoringVision that provides new reading glasses to people in developing countries. Since we started in 2003, we have helped over 12M people. Today I’m going to tell you about one of them.

I was on our mission trip to Mexico last October when we were approached by a woman with a 28 year old daughter with Down ’s syndrome. What happened next were a series of circumstances—any one of which could have derailed the outcome. But, which together, created a remarkable result for this young woman.

This is what happened:

  • First, we had 2 optometrists on the trip. We generally don’t have optometrists on our mission trips b/c dispensing reading glasses doesn’t require an ECP. So, I actively downplay the need for them.
  • Before we went, we were approached about adding distance vision glasses to our mission. I have always resisted making our model more complicated—which this would do. But, I agreed to try them on a test basis to see if we could make them work with minimal complication.
  • We set up our dispensing table in a small Mayan village outside of Valladolid. The woman who had the child with Down’s syndrome, heard about the clinic and brought her daughter to it.
  • SLIDE 1: The optometrists had the tools to test for visual acuity. We had brought a wall chart and a portable auto refractor. But neither would have worked for this woman because of the severity of her nearsightedness. They determined that this woman needed -10D distance power glasses. (That means her world was capped at about 2 inches in front of her face.)
  • SLIDE 2 and 3: We had some -5D distance vision which they fit on her.
  • SLIDE 4: The impact to her vision was immediate. Her eyes, which before had been looking up, down and sideways, went immediately to looking at something. It was really amazing to watch when they put the glasses on her. It also impacted her personal affect. She went from not talking, or being a part of the conversation (her mother said she barely had the gift of speech), to almost constant talking.
  • And while these didn’t get her all the way to -10D (she probably sees shapes rather than distinct features), the glasses clearly changed her life.
  • Plus, amazingly, one of the other volunteers has a -10D distance vision prescription. She later sent a pair of her glasses to this woman.

Many elements and people came together to help this woman. And I ask you, were they merely coincidences or something else? I happen to think they were a Mayan Miracle.

Polly Chandler: text unavailable