In the reign of Ahaz son of Jotham, son of Uzziah, king of Judah, Razon the king of Aram went up against Jerusalem with Pekah son of Remaliah, king of Israel, to lay siege to it; but he was unable to capture it.
The news was brought to the House of David. ‘Aram’ they said ‘has reached Ephraim.’ Then the heart of the king and the hearts of the people shuddered as the trees of the forest shudder in front of the wind. The Lord said to Isaiah, ‘Go with your son Shear-jashub, and meet Ahaz at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the Fuller’s Field road, and say to him:
‘“Pay attention, keep calm, have no fear,
do not let your heart sink
because of these two smouldering stumps of firebrands,
or because Aram, Ephraim and the son of Remaliah
have plotted to ruin you, and have said:
Let us invade Judah and terrorise it
and seize it for ourselves,
and set up a king there,
the son of Tabeel.
The Lord says this:
It shall not come true; it shall not be.
The capital of Aram is Damascus,
the head of Damascus, Razon;
the capital of Ephraim, Samaria,
the head of Samaria, the son of Remaliah.
Six or five years more
and a shattered Ephraim shall no longer be a people.
But if you do not stand by me,
you will not stand at all.”’
Jesus began to reproach the towns in which most of his miracles had been worked, because they refused to repent.
‘Alas for you, Chorazin! Alas for you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard on Judgement day with Tyre and Sidon as with you. And as for you, Capernaum, did you want to be exalted as high as heaven? You shall be thrown down to hell. For if the miracles done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have been standing yet. And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard with the land of Sodom on Judgement day as with you.’
Unless your faith is firm, you shall not be firm!
We’re having a record-breaking heat wave at the moment. Temperatures have breached the 100F mark in many communities in the Los Angeles area. As if that was not bad enough, the heat has been accompanied by severe winds. Stepping outside, it can feel like you’re entering a convection oven, like your face is about to be whipped off by the strong gusts of hot air. We can’t seem to catch a break here in California. We’ve been grappling with severe drought for the last two years. Then in March of this year, we had the forest fires, the floods and mudslides in Montecito. Now we’re again battling blazes in Santa Barbara and San Diego. The fragility of our existence is sobering and depressing. We think we’ve come so far, but really we haven’t at all.
Natural disasters are potent reminders of how small we are. For all our achievements, man is but a speck. If we survive, if we thrive, it is only through the grace of God. I am reminded of this as I watch the forests blaze on TV. I think of all the families whose fathers, brothers, husbands and sons are first responders and fire fighters. They’re out there risking their lives, making sure everyone is evacuated to safety. I also think of all the people who have abused California’s resources for private profit. I think of the people who have developed forest land where they should not have. I think of the corporations who have made themselves rich by subverting public water rights for private enterprise. I think of the people we have put in power, who lobby for the interests of big money instead of speaking up for the public good. Are we the architects of our own misery? Quite possibly.
Our cities are the modern-day Capernaum, Tyre and Sodom. Many of us are unrepentant, ungrateful, callous, self-serving. Even when we do get round to repenting, ours is a fleeting contrition. I am reminded of the plaintive words of Abraham – “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it?” (Genesis 18: 23-24). That’s our lot. In our dogged pursuit of profit and our own interests, we have forgotten all about God. Are there fifty righteous people amongst us, that God should spare our communities? I’d like to think so. I’d like to hope so. Watching these first responders try to save our communities, I am reminded that so much more is expected of us, yet we’ve all mostly fallen short. We each have a part to play here, to rise to the occasion when these things happen, to go to the aid of our neighbours, to be the righteous people for whom God would spare a city. Faith lived requires us to be a people of action.
(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for all those whose homes have been destroyed by recent natural disasters. We pray that God guides them through the difficult task of rebuilding their lives.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who work as first responders and volunteers. May God protect them from harm and bring them home safely to their families.