We spent the better part of yesterday in downtown Detroit, showing "our town" to our guests from Wisconsin. We started with lunch at Harry's, after which we walked to Comerica to see our Tigers play a fun and exciting game (Did you see us on TV? We were sitting down the left field line, between the end of the netting and the foul pole - right where the Tigers were hitting the ball all day.) We then took the People Mover for +1 circuits before exiting at Greektown. From there we walked to Campus Martius, and then to Cliff Bells. On our way home we stopped at our son's apartment overlooking Mt. Elliot Park. During the day we stopped at a variety of places, saw different people we knew, and (I think) impressed our guests with how far "our town" has come.
I have a few books about the history of Detroit that were written about 10 years ago. They tell a very different story, speaking of former glories and boom times. However, they all seemed to have the same theme: Detroit is dead, never to rise again. I believe history is proving those books wrong. "Our town" is rising from the rubble and is thriving once again. I don't expect it will ever be like it used to be, but I do believe it is becoming very special in a new and exciting way.
In a very similar way, there are many people today who are saying Christ's Church on earth is dead, and they doubt it will ever rise again. I beg to differ with them. I see God in Christ Jesus at work all around me every day. While the face and activities of the Church in our country are not what they used to be, this does not mean that "our God" has become irrelevant. Rather, it is an indicator that the times in which we live are very different from those of the past, and, because of this, the church is being challenged to proclaim the changeless Gospel of Jesus in ways that connect with a different world. I believe the words of Jesus still hold true: "On this rock (that is Christ, the Son of the living God) I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16.18)
And, speaking of raising new life from rubble, the same holds true for God's work in individuals. We should never lose hope for ourselves, or for anyone else we encounter. The Bible is filled with story after story of the lost being found, the dead being raised, and the hopeless being given new life. To the troubled crowd on the first Pentecost who asked what they needed to do to be reclaimed Peter said, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2.38) This promise remains true "for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." (Acts 2.39)
Isaiah saw our day from a distance when he wrote, "On that day the root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples. The nations will look to him for guidance, and his resting place will be glorious. On that day the Lord will extend his hand a second time to recover the remnant of his people who survive - from Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and the coasts and islands of the west. He will lift up a banner for the nations and gather the dispersed of Israel; he will collect the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth." (Isaiah 11.10-12) Just as the first waving of this banner two centuries ago was nothing like people were expecting, so I can see that God's kingdom work today is very different from what many of us look for.
But God is at work ... in "our town" and in towns across our land ... in you and in individuals you least expect ... doing the same old things that he has been doing in all generations before us ... finding the lost, raising the dead, giving new life to the hopeless ... and using people like you and me to make a difference for his kingdom in "our town" (no matter which town might be yours).
So, what do you think he might be doing in you ... and through you ... TODAY?