Their webs cannot serve as clothing;
they cannot cover themselves with what they make.
Their works are works of iniquity,
and deeds of violence are in their hands.
Their feet run to evil,
and they rush to shed innocent blood;
their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity,
desolation and destruction are in their highways.
The way of peace they do not know,
and there is no justice in their paths.
Their roads they have made crooked;
no one who walks in them knows peace. – Isaiah 59:6-8 (NRSV)
Not to confuse American history with Biblical prophecy, (and I am not in any way implying that Isaiah foretold the invasion of December 7th, 1941) but in this text Isaiah is also describing the enemy of a people who have been invaded and plundered.
75 years ago today Imperial Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. It may be hard for us to understand the feelings of anger, helplessness, shock and disbelief that our grandparents or great-grandparents must have felt upon hearing the news. Probably the closest that we can relate to the experience of Pearl Harbor today would be 9-11. As a nation we felt violated, helpless and broken. We were angry, we were bewildered. We wondered if we would ever be whole again. We wanted retribution and revenge.
Enemies like the ones Isaiah speaks of, as well as enemies like the Japanese Empire, and enemies like those who would perpetrate terror in the name of a false religion, are nothing new. If there is anything constant in human history it is that humans like to engage in conflict, cause hurt to other humans, and to make war. A lot.
The other constant in human history is that God is stubborn. As much as we try to have our own way, and as devastated as we can be due to the actions of others, God is with us. In and through the devastation God constantly finds ways to redeem His creation, to restore and bring life.
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”- Luke 1:46-55 (NRSV)
The above verses are often referred to as the Magnificat, or Mary’s response to the news that she is to be Jesus’ earthly mother. Her choice was to magnify the Lord rather than to magnify her obstacles or the challenges she would face.
Catastrophes will continue to happen as we live in this world of “not yet.” Jesus Himself told us that there will be wars and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:6) which are part of life on this “not yet” earth.
But will we claim the promise that was offered to Mary? Even in adversity and desolation, and in the days that live in infamy, God is with us. Can we allow our souls to magnify the Lord?