This 26 January, pray for an invasion of light

Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, land of the Eastern Maar nation: Jesus comes to bring light and healing to occupied territories and colonised people. (Listen.)

Once upon a time, the land was fertile and good. Sparkling rivers threaded through it; lakes teeming with birds dotted it; and on its edge the sea thundered, shimmering with fish. The people of the land tended it for millennia, creating intricate patchworks of forest and field. They enriched the soil and made it friable; they selected plants for abundance and ease. The people caught fish; they hunted and traded; they tended their crops. They built houses and raised children; they passed on law through story and song.

One day, invaders came. They seized land, killed men, raped women, stole children. Survivors were exiled or enslaved. And slowly the land turned to dust. It was just as the prophets foretold: when the people worship idols of Mammon and empire, the land shrivels up; and justice and mercy and peace are no more.

For many years, the people lived in darkness. First Peoples, invaders, settlers: darkness covered them all. The darkness was the darkness of war. It was the darkness of hatred and violence. It was the darkness of a people enslaved; and the darkness of a people enslaving. It was the darkness of a victim hating their oppressor; it was the darkness of the oppressor’s guilt. It was the darkness of injustice and propaganda and lies. It was the darkness of rapacious greed and the gaping maw of empire, which takes and takes and takes until hearts are empty and land is dead. It was the darkness of smoke covering the sun; it was the darkness of a land turning to dust.

This is the story of Zebulun and Naphtali, invaded by Assyria, occupied by Gentiles, controlled and shaped by successive empires. And this is the story of Southwest Victoria, invaded by the English, occupied by us, controlled and shaped by global capitalism.

Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, land of the Eastern Maar nation: on the road by the sea, across the river, the people sat in darkness; yes, all the people sat in the region and the shadow of death. For darkness, violence, guilt, trauma, fear: they make you do that. You sit down, you do nothing, you despair.

And so nothing changes. Empire wins. There is no justice. There is no mercy. There is no peace. Hope is dead. Fires burn, rivers die, and the land turns to dust—and here we are.

But as impossible as it sounds, in this land, light is dawning: to this land, Jesus comes; and darkness is always deepest before dawn. So take heart and listen: for as he comes, Jesus is calling: “Repent! Change direction! Change your heart! Turn to God! For the kingdom of heaven has come near!”

Change your religion! Repent of all forms of church which lay heavy burdens on people, and seek to control, exploit, and bind. Turn from those who say loud prayers in the public sphere, but care nothing for the vulnerable. They are the blind leading the blind, and will fall into a pit: so open your eyes, seek justice, and choose life!

Change your heart! Don’t be discouraged, and don’t be afraid. Don’t let your doubts and the darkness shape your life. Love your neighbours and your enemies; cultivate hope; plant gardens and raise children; tell stories of heaven’s culture. Look for new green shoots and relationships with strangers which will transform this region and bring healing and renewal.

Change your imagination! Don’t let your outlook be shaped by the global entertainment industry; don’t be crushed by endless cycles of bad news. Turn off Netflix; tune into the prophets and Jesus and all who go deep in faith. Let them shape your imagination, and let your renewed imagination galvanize you into prayer and action.

Change your desires! Don’t be seduced by the advertisers; don’t be defined by the brands you buy; don’t go shopping for fun. Don’t be fooled by the promise of the next new thing; it will never satisfy. Look only for what you need this day, and give thanks for the abundance of enough.

Change your economics! Turn your back on Mammon, money, greed. Do not worry about your life and your investments and your superannuation; but turn to heaven’s economy, where resources are shared, the hungry are fed, and there is always enough to go around.

Change your allegiances! Love your family, love your community, but don’t let them ensnare you; don’t let them keep you from heaven’s culture. Let Christ be your primary identity. Join with the one who unites all people and works through them. Seek not your own advantage, or the advantage of your family or your class or your tribe. Instead, pursue the common good. Seek the shalom of the region; for in its shalom, you too will know shalom.

You don’t need to sit in darkness and despair. Jesus is asking you and me and all who are willing to turn and live into the light of heaven’s culture. And when we are gathered together with him, the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it; the light enlightens the people, and illuminates the way.

Once upon a time, all the people sat in darkness; yes, all the people sat in the region and the shadow of death. But it’s time to stand up together in the region, and walk into the light of life.

This Invasion Day, then, I pray for a new invasion: an invasion of heavenly light. I pray for an invasion of enemy-love and stranger-love and neighbour-love; I pray that those things which isolate people in darkness are lit up and revealed, and that people come together in the light.

I pray for an invasion of truth: truth about our history; truth about genocide; truth about intergenerational trauma; truth about the injustices which continue to pile up on First Peoples. I pray that the lies are lit up and revealed for what they are, and that the truth leads us into action, and liberates us all.

I pray for an invasion of healing: for settlers and First Peoples; for politics and economics; for the land. I pray for an invasion of heavenly power, always renewable, always renewing.

I pray for an invasion of Jesus Christ into every occupied territory: into bodies, minds and spirits colonised by global capitalism; into churches distorted by wealth and power, and infected by consumerism; into economies and politics which serve only the rich; into rapacious practices which deplete the land and empty the seas; into a national culture which worships money and militarism, and is hurtling towards death.

I pray for an invasion of justice, mercy and peace into every human heart: for as the Psalmist says, on that day, peace and justice will kiss, and the land will be healed and whole.

Right now, things are looking dark, very dark: but the light is dawning. So change your heart, turn to God, and follow Jesus: for the kingdom of heaven is closing in. Ω

PRAYER: Go now, listening for the one who calls you. Let go of what needs to be left behind. Join with others. Walk into the light. Proclaim the good news of heaven’s nearness and heaven’s culture. And may God grant you courage to respond to the call, may Christ Jesus be your light, and may the Holy Spirit fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope. Amen.

A riff on Matthew 4:12-23 (with reference to John, Jeremiah, Psalm 85 etc.) given to Sanctuary, 26 January 2020 © Alison Sampson, 2020. Image credit: Holger Link on Unsplash.

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