Saturday, December 04, 2010

This is the Way; Walk in It

December 4, 2010
Saturday of the First Week of Advent

The Lord will give you the bread you need and the water for which you thirst. No longer will your Teacher hide himself, but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher, While from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears: "This is the way; walk in it," when you would turn to the right or to the left. Isaiah 30:20-21

At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest." Matthew 9:36-38

"Power. Greater power than we can imagine, abandoned, as the Word knew the powerlessness of the unborn child, still unformed, taking up almost no space in the great ocean of amniotic fluid, unseeing, unhearing, unknowing. Slowly growing, as any human embryo grows, arms and legs and a head, eyes, mouth, nose, slowly swimming into life until the ocean of the womb is no longer large enough, and it is time for birth.

"Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, Christ. the Maker of the universe or perhaps many universes, willingly and lovingly leaving all that power and coming to this poor, sin-filled planet to live with us for a few years to show us what we ought to be and could be. Christ came to us as Jesus of Nazareth, wholly human and wholly divine, to show us what is means to be made in God’s image."

(From “A Sky Full of Children,” by Madeline L’Engle and included in Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, p. 80-81.)

Our favorite school teachers stood in front of a classroom of youth every day, pouring out the contents of lesson plans, homework assignments, and wisdom (yes, that was wisdom even if we did not recognize the wisdom they imparted to us daily).

Think about the image and presence of your favorite school teachers. Mrs. Hicks – from second and fourth grade at the Harmony School in New Monmouth, New Jersey. Frank Melachi, from Thorne Junior High School, the science teacher who opened my eyes to the need for greater stewardship for the biological wonderful creation of our good green God-given earth. Dr. George Herndl and Dr. Russ Fowler at Belmont Abbey College, connecting works of literature and the inherent themes of conflict and characters to our everyday modern lives.

These teachers and so many other teachers of mine and yours were and are visible and tangible. Today, Isaiah promises that God will send us a teacher to do the same right before our eyes. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, God taught through his prophets. But the promise of Advent is that we will have a way to more clearly and directly learn from God.

Jesus comes into our midst in a little feeding troth in Bethlehem. He grows into manhood and walks among us, fulfilling the words of the prophet to direct our path. Then, the world was no longer big enough to contain his presence as a solitary man. So he left behind the Holy Spirit to be that “voice” sounding in our ears, “This is the way; walk in it,” when we want to turn to the right or to the left or to the self and not to the other.

Christ’s presence and his teaching, his healing and his Word remain with us through the laborers whom he sends out. Literally these laborers were the disciples who heard him directly and fulfilled his assignments. Yet, two thousand years later, the work remains. The laborers are still few. You and I are now the laborers of today.

The kingdom of heaven is “at hand.” What does that mean? During Advent we may think that the Kingdom of Heaven is close in time, almost here or coming. Yet “at hand” also means close in space. The Kingdom of Heaven is not some distant, far-off dream. It is as close to us as our favorite teacher was bending over our shoulder to help solve that math problem, pronounce that difficult word, or understand that scientific concept.

What are you doing to ne the teacher of today, the laborer of the presence? You and I are here to solve, to teach, to heal and to help the people of today. We are not called to wait for some distant far-off promise of the coming of Heaven, but instead are called to aid the people in the Kingdom today who are calling out for our help in the here and now.