Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
The poet contrasts us [in the scripture above, Is 40:28-31] in our waiting and in our getting ahead. For those who take initiative into their own hands, either in the atheism of pride or in the atheism of despair, the words are weary, faint, and exhausted. The inverse comes with waiting: renewed strength, mounting up, running, and walking. But that is in waiting. It is in receiving and not grasping, in inheriting and not possessing [Mt 5:5], in praising and not seizing. It is knowing that initiative has passed from our hands and we are safer for it. Obviously, this becomes a critique of Babylon [the kingdom holding the people of God in exile to whom the poet is prophesying]. It is also a critique of every effort to reorganize on our own, and it is a warning about settling in any exile as home [Phillipians 3:20]
The newness from God is the only serious source of energy. And that energy for which people yearn is precisely what the royal consciousness — either of Solomon or Nebuchadnezzar — cannot give. The prophet must not underestimate his or her urgent calling, for the community of faith has no other source of newness. I am aware that this runs dangerously close to passivity, as trust often does, and that it stands at the brink of cheap grace, as grace must always do. But the risk must be run because exiles must always learn that our hope is never generated among us but always given to us. And whenever it is given we are amazed.
– Walter Brueggemann, “The Prophetic Imagination”
“Nurturing the Faith Within”
Can we do something to be reborn from above, or is it all so dependent on the initiative of God’s Spirit that we have no choice but to wait until it happens to us? The answer from all the Gospels is that an active faith in Jesus and the One who sent him is essential in receiving the Holy Spirit. Even though our rebirth is a completely free gift of the Holy Spirit, nevertheless we are ourselves fully a part of this rebirth…Faith is the active trust in God who has promised us the Holy Spirit from above.
Is there a way for us to nurture that faith within? The answer is yes: it is the way of poverty, the way Jesus himself shows us as he moves toward the cross. Jesus consistently refuses the way of success, power, influence, and celebrity. Always, he chooses the way of weakness, powerlessness, compassion, and obscurity — the way of the poor…
And so every time we choose poverty over wealth, powerlessness over power, humble service over popularity, quiet fruitfulness over loud acclaim, we prepare for our rebirth in the Holy Spirit. This might sound gloomy, unnatural, and even impossible. But once we have embarked on the journey of faith, our eyes will be opened to the way of the poor without any coercion or force. We will discover, first of all, our own poverty, fears, doubts, vulnerabilities, and weaknesses. In faith, we will no longer ignore or avoid these things, but embrace them as the place where Jesus walks with us and sends us His Spirit. Then also we will see clearly the poor around us, whether they are materially, emotionally, or mentally poor, and we will realize that they reveal to us God’s presence, in ways nobody else could. We will feel drawn to them, not because of their poverty, but because of the Holy Spirit shining through their poverty.
Thus the Spirit living in our poverty will speak to the Spirit among the poor. Our poor hearts will speak to the poor hearts of those around us. And out of this, a new spiritual community will be molded, not something spectacular, imposing, or world-convincing, but, on the contrary, something small, hidden, and very humble, scarcely noticed by our fast moving world. In the midst of the world, but hidden from its view, something very new, very tender, and very fragile can be born. When such a new birth takes place in and among us, we will recognize it, even though we lack the words to express it fully. It is the work of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit from above. It is the greatest gift a human being can receive; a gift to be gently held, carefully protected, and patiently led to full maturity.