Friday, December 2, 2016

Advent, Day 6: Anything

Tell the innocent how fortunate they are,
   for they shall eat the fruit of their labours.
Woe to the guilty! How unfortunate they are,
   for what their hands have done shall be done to them. 

- Isaiah 3:10-11

I think Jesus was thinking of this passage from Isaiah when he preached the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:17-49): "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied ... But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry."

Prophetic and eschatological writings from the Bible aren't about predicting the future (though sometimes they may turn out to have done so). I was just telling this someone the other day, a not-so-religious person who was musing about whether Donald Trump might be the Antichrist. I replied that Antichrist might be a helpful metaphor, but that the biblical writers were not fortune-tellers. It really doesn't need to matter to us how the world will end, whether it's all of a sudden in a total upsetting of the laws of physics, or very slowly as our species dies out for the lack of a conducive environment in which to thrive. Either way, someday we won't be here. But we are here now.

Writings like this are intended to give comfort, to promise that in some way there will eventually be a great reversal. Those who suffer now will no longer suffer. Those who persecute now will be put in their place. What that looks like is probably beyond us.

Above all, these passages are put here to remind us that we don't accomplish that great reversal on our own steam. God is doing this work through us and even apart from us. One thing at a time.

It's easy to grow impatient for such a time. But these writings help us keep our focus. A couple days ago I posted the song "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream," and when I sang it to my daughter that night, she said, "I don't think that will ever happen." I said, "Maybe not, but it's so important to keep in mind what we want to happen, or we'll never even move in that direction."

So here's another song that echoes that focus and that impatience. "Yes, we should like to see a burning bush-type sign/ But anything would be fine."

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