The 2020-21 Chapel Theme
Instead: Hope in the Steadfast God
“Above all, Give Glory to God.” This is Biola’s motto, splashed boldly in red on the north wall of Chase Gymnasium. The exhortation is an echo of passages throughout scripture that proclaim the very heart of our reason for being--to glorify God. “Glory breaks out,” says Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, “when people notice something good and recognize its attractiveness or desirability, and then typically express approval and praise.” We are clearly designed to be glory-giving creatures, and it manifests these days in our impulse to post, share or tweet whatever good, attractive or desirable thing we come across. This is fine and good insofar as our praise is fitting. The call to glorify God, however, directs us to Him who above all can bear the weight of such glory in His truth, goodness and beauty.
But how do we glorify God or “display his splendor,” as Isaiah 61 puts it, in more than just words? Isaiah 61, our grounding passage for this year, tells us it is by letting God form us more fully into His people.
In context, Isaiah 61 is part of the prophet’s vision of an Israel returning from exile. It was Israel’s resistance to God’s work in their lives (their unholy alliances with unholy powers) that landed them in trouble, in bondage, in humiliation, in grief, and in mourning. But Isaiah prophesies a second chance, a 2.0, a return to Jerusalem, but also to becoming God’s people such that their lives would glorify God and display his splendor.
Using the first lines of Isaiah 61, Jesus announced himself in Luke 4 as God’s agent of change (also known as the Messiah! The Son of God!), inaugurating a great reversal, announcing the coming Kingdom where the good news of the gospel would, among other things, reach right into the lives of those usually left out.
“The Spirit of the Lord is up on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)
Isaiah foreshadows such a Kingdom in chapter 61 with a series of INSTEADS. He writes:
“God will bestow on them a crown of beauty
INSTEAD of ashes,
the oil of joy
INSTEAD of mourning,
and a garment of praise
INSTEAD of a spirit of despair...” (61:2-3A) and,
INSTEAD OF “your shame... and...your disgrace” (61:7)
to be called oaks of righteousness
a planting of the Lord,” clothed with “garments of salvation” and “robes of
righteousness” for the “display of his splendor” (61:3).
In today’s cultural tournament of glories, God’s purposes have not changed. The great exchange, the great reversal, the plan of salvation and redemption and the glory of it all are still on (forever and ever, Amen.) He still lovingly and ineluctably determines to display his glory, “causing seeds to grow, [that] will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations” (11). These seeds are we, his people.
This year in chapels, we will explore in Scripture the many INSTEADS God offers to us and this world if we would actively surrender to his transforming work in our lives, as individuals and communities, and by so doing display His glory.
Out of its biblical context, Instead is in some ways an ironic theme for this year. On campus this fall there will be new protocols and practices instead of what we are used to. We will be at arm’s length from each other instead of in arm’s reach. We may be learning in virtual squares alongside our classroom squares. But these are small, temporary insteads compared to the great INSTEADS to which Isaiah 61 and all of Scripture speak. The great insteads of Scripture are a call, in our return from “exile,” to carry on together our Christian lives as a community which lives in God. It helps to remember that ‘-stead’ means ‘place’ (as in homestead). To live in the stead of our faith is to hope and abide in God’s steadfastness. “I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord, says the prophet just two chapters later (Is. 63:7). In His love and sovereignty, we ourselves choose again to stand steadfastly, which, far from a standing around, is a call to move in concert with his coming Kingdom. Our theme is our prayer: that the small insteads of this coming year--the temporary distances and detours of life in a pandemic – will lead us nearer to God’s steadfast love and the great INSTEADS of His unfolding kingdom.