Friday, December 05, 2014

You Shall See

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 30:20B-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

Lord, we pray we never find ourselves without hope, without a glimpse of the empty tomb each time we happen upon a cross. Help us begin our daily journey expecting both crosses and empty tombs and rejoicing when we encounter either because we know you are with us. Amen. - Adapted from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals

There is a popular (but unfounded) image that God, in the stories of the Hebrew Bible, was violent and vengeful.  Certainly there are war stories in the books of the Hebrew Bible but the Jews were as often on the losing side as they were on the winning side.

However, it was not Jesus who ushered in the image of a compassionate Lord.  Isaiah – and prophets before him – introduces us to the loving, merciful, compassionate God who guides us to walk in his ways.  How can a God described with these words be seen as a God of vengeance?  Consider the loving and pastoral image painted by the prophet Isaiah:
…gracious to you when you cry out, as soon as he hears he will answer you.
…give you the bread you need and the water for which you thirst.
…with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher.
…that the soil produces will be rich and abundant.
…your flock will be given pasture and the lamb will graze in spacious meadows.
…there will be streams of running water.
…he will heal the bruises left by his blows.

Jesus did not change everything – despite what the Lighthouse Keeper might have written in these reflections a few years ago.  No, Jesus brought out the qualities of a loving God with of which his people had lost sight when they turned to the right or to the left. (Or when they had not studied the entire Old Testament).

Make no mistake.  Jesus was a change agent.  He was not changing God.  He was asking us to change. Why bother?  Because the laborers who walk in His way are few.  Jesus needs more to heal, proclaim and teach in this world.

The poet Rose Marie Berger quoted scholar Ched Myers on her web site/blog yesterday and it relates to the change Jesus wants to see in us.
If we are to be followers of that Jesus, we must also make choices in the conflicted terrain of our world about what prophetic traditions we apprentice to and what social movements of liberation we help build as individuals and as church. However controversial or consequential such choices may be, such is what it means to be a disciple of the Great Disciple of God’s Kingdom.”–Ched Myers

What choices are you making during these fresh new days of Advent?  Did you choose to participate more in Cyber Monday over Giving Tuesday?  However, one day does not a laborer make.  “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”

To what events of this week have you been paying attention? The Ferguson-Staten Island-Cleveland controversies over deaths of unarmed black men?  The rising to near record levels of the stock market and its effect (if any) on your lifestyle? The Bill Cosby allegations?  The UVA-Rolling Stone rape controversy?  The run-up to the first ever college football playoff? 

Sometimes, I want to crawl into a hole and hide from the realities of our divided society.  But how would that increase the laborers in the field? 

We have to make choices in the conflicted terrain of our world.  To what tradition will you apprentice?  What will help you build up our church and society?

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