[Cyrus of Persia said], “Any of those among you who are of his people—may their God be with them!—are now permitted to go up to Jerusalem in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord…” Ezra 1:3
A basic tenet of the Lutheran understanding of Christianity as that God can use anyone. In fact, God uses all sorts of people to love, protect, serve and set people free. It is how the world works and how God has intended it from the beginning. Each of us is created in the image of God and given gifts to use in service of living God’s image out in our lives.
In the quote above, the Exile is near its end. The Babylonian Empire has been replaced by the Empire of the Medes and Persians. Cyrus of Persia is the emperor in charge of things now. God has prompted Cyrus to set the Jews free and send them home to Jerusalem where they will rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and return to the homes they lost decades before. Cyrus is not Jewish but he is someone referred to as a “Messiah” in the scriptures. Messiah means “chosen or anointed one.” It is Cyrus’ calling to set the Jews free and send them home.
This is important because it helps each of us see how to view the world and the people around us. The people in our lives are from a wide variety of backgrounds, faiths, and ethnicities. They have all sorts of ideas about how the world works and about who God is. Some of them have ideas that we may find strange or confused. There is no doubt that they are not exactly like us.
But God can and does choose to use anyone and everyone. Cyrus was an outsider and the head of the oppressor’s empire. None of the exiled was likely to have had much use for him at all. But God didn’t see this as an issue. God would and will work through anyone who can get the work done. God wanted the people to go home, and Cyrus was the guy who could make it happen.
This is a great reminder for all of us to remain open. First, we should be open to seeing God at work in all sorts of people – some of who would surprise us. Second, living among the baptized, we are on notice that God wants to use us and we should be open to saying yes to God’s call. In the process, we may find our lives taking on new significance.