The great gathering

The great gathering

Solitary tracks in the snow seem a fit visual for our times.

Around my house are various paths of prints – mostly rabbit, but a few others.  They’re my inexpensive version of a trail cam, revealing what moves around in the cover of night.

There’s something quite evocative about each track.  I know the creature that left them is just going about its business.  But to me, these paw prints remind me of the loneliness of this pandemic age.

Maybe I’ve just spent too much time alone in the house. 

Which is why Isaiah’s prophecy today is so comforting.  In chapter 60, he looks forward, guided by the Spirit, to what’s ahead for the people of God.  Though in the present they’re facing a cataclysmic invasion and disintegration of their society, Isaiah sees beyond to an amazing future.

He pictures a day when the city of God, Zion, will be the central destination for all the nations of the world, drawn like iron filings to a magnet.

14 The children of your oppressors will come bowing before you;
    all who despise you will bow down at your feet
and will call you the City of the Lord,
    Zion of the Holy One of Israel.

15 “Although you have been forsaken and hated,
    with no one traveling through,
I will make you the everlasting pride
    and the joy of all generations.

It’s a healthy thing to envision the future.  Just recently, I took my fledgling group of Creatives through an exercise where we storyboarded three stages of our creative process, based upon a study I led on Genesis 1 and 2.  This is how I pictured my process of writing this column.

What I found fascinating was how we all – including myself – had a fairly small vision of the future impact of our art.  We all focused on getting an audience, not the greater transformation our impact could have on that audience.

That’s why we all need passages like Isaiah 60.  Yes, now, the church is fractured and quarreling within, scorned and dismissed without.  A spirit of isolation is a dogged enemy right now.

But God promises to make our end a grand summing up, a coming together, a radiant core of blessing and joy.  Not only for us, but for the entire world.  Like the parable of the mustard seed in Mark 4:32, the kingdom of God grows until it’s so large, it draws birds into its shade.

Let’s not allow our present solitude tell us otherwise.

Cure thy children's warring madness,
bend our pride to thy control;
shame our wanton, selfish gladness,
rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
lest we miss thy kingdom's goal,
lest we miss thy kingdom's goal.

                        Harry E. Fosdick (1878-1969)

Reader: How do you combat isolation?  I’d love to hear about it.

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Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.