“In that day,” declares the Lord,
“I will gather the lame;
I will assemble the exiles
and those I have brought to grief.
I will make the lame my remnant,
those driven away a strong nation.
The Lord will rule over them in Mount Zion
from that day and forever.
As for you, watchtower of the flock,
stronghold of Daughter Zion,
the former dominion will be restored to you;
kingship will come to Daughter Jerusalem.” (New International Version)
One of the great tragedies of our world, as well as one of the worst feelings of humanity, is the sense that one does not belong.
Since people are hard-wired by God for community, belonging is essential, not optional. The image of the rugged individualist who gets things done on their own terms and marches to the beat of a different drum might be an appealing picture to many Westerners – but it falls woefully short of real lived human experience.
Since the fall of humanity, people have tended to group themselves into insiders and outsiders. In other words, discrimination is the enemy of true belonging. And, what’s more, there always seems to be people who are ready to create such division for their own purpose and profit. Indeed, it’s an age old tale, perhaps best told by Dr. Seuss in his classis book, Sneetches and Other Stories (1961).
In the story, Sneetches with stars on their bellies discriminate against and shun those without. A slick entrepreneur, Sylvester McMonkey McBean, offers the Sneetches without stars on their bellies the chance to get them with his Star-On machine, for three dollars, of course.
The application of stars upon thars is instantly and wildly popular. However, this abjectly upsets the original star-bellied Sneetches. They are in danger of losing their special status! So, McBean then tells them about his Star-Off machine, costing ten dollars, of course, and the Sneetches who originally had stars happily pay the money to have them removed.
Since McBean only cares about profit, he allows the recently starred Sneetches through this machine, as well. Ultimately, the entire affair escalates, with all the Sneetches running from one machine to the next…
“…until neither the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew
whether this one was that one… or that one was this one…
or which one was what one… or what one was who.”
The Sneetches end up penniless. McBean leaves a rich man. The Sneetches learn from the experience that neither plain-belly nor star-belly Sneetches are superior. They finally become friends. Dr. Suess intended his story to be a satire of discrimination between races and cultures.
The kingdom of God is an egalitarian realm. There are no walls and barriers dividing people into opposing groups. And there isn’t such a thing as marginal, excluded, insignificant, forbidden, or discounted people.
Micah’s prophecy tells not of the privileged and powerful coming together for renewal but the lame. God’s care in maintaining a remnant and gathering them for restoration will be made up of the wounded, the ones who have no ability to bring themselves to the center.
The upside-down kingdom of God makes the last first, and the first, last. The Lord’s rule and reign champions the disabled and the misfits – those without an ability to come. They may be forgotten by others but never by God.
Like Santa coming to the island of misfit toys, rescuing and airlifting forgotten toys so that they can become treasured gifts for boys and girls – so God creates belonging where there seems none to be had. And leading the effort is a tossed aside reindeer named Rudolph, using his unique “deformity” to cut through the tough winter storm.
Perhaps you feel a bit, or maybe a lot, like the square peg trying to fit into a round hole. It could be that you wonder whether there is a place for you. You have experienced life as something of an oddity, as if the normal world around you is not aware of your very personhood.
The good news is that a prominent place is given to the humble, for those attempting to make a difference in the world that gives them no place to belong. God sees. God hears. God knows. God cares.
The Lord sends a Savior, a Deliverer, who will himself be a peculiar individual on this earth. It will seem as if he is from another place… which he is. But, then again, aren’t we all? Each of us was crafted with divine care and attention.
You are the one who created my innermost parts;
you knit me together while I was still in my mother’s womb.
I give thanks to you that I was marvelously set apart.
Your works are wonderful—I know that very well.
My bones weren’t hidden from you
when I was being put together in a secret place,
when I was being woven together in the deep parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my embryo,
and on your scroll every day was written that was being formed for me,
before any one of them had yet happened. (Psalm 139:13-16, CEB)
The Lord has good plans for you and me. It might seem as if there are times God is placing a heavy hand upon us, even punishing. Yet, restoration is in the future. In this season of the year, we celebrate that Jesus is our Immanuel, God with us.
May Christ, who by his incarnation gathered into one, things earthly and heavenly, fill you with joy and peace. Amen.