I remember laying on my back somewhere in the north west of Western Australia, gazing up at the night sky. Without the distraction of city lights the Milky Way becomes a living thing. It’s no longer a dark place, but a place where myriad lights fill every corner.
Then there are memories of camping on the banks of the Mary River in the Kimberley, shining a torch along the opposite bank to catch the glint of crocodile eyes. The worst part of camping is arriving at your camping place late after a long drive and having to put up the tent in the near-dark.
Isaiah 54 has nothing to do with camping, but it takes the readers thoughts back to the patriarchs like Abraham who lived in tents permanently – not just on holidays. Abraham was called to leave his home and move to a new country that God had planned for him. Similarly, Isaiah calls on the church to reach beyond the familiar:
“Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.
This morning in church I shared this as a call to the 21st century church. At a time when many people are expressing fear about the future of the church, I don’t believe it’s time to circle the wagons. Rather, I believe we need to hear the word of the Lord to Abraham and to Isaiah, to enlarge the place of our tent.
As a local church, we are calling on God to show us what that may mean. For me it certainly means we need to stop looking for the glint of crocodile eyes. Instead we need to look at the Milky Way and be reminded again of the majesty of God.
Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Psalm 8