Waiting for Peace

December 20, 2006

It’s Advent.  I think Advent is a hard time.  We’re supposed to be waiting, maybe even penitent.  But all the world around us is busy.  I know, I know, we’ve all heard sermons on this for almost four weeks now.

I was reading the daily office for today and realized that since week 4 of Advent is also Christmas Eve, we don’t read some of the lessons for Advent that I really wanted to.  Having no patience for this– even though it is a time of patience and waiting– I skipped right to the part I wanted to:  Isaiah 11.

A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse,
   and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
   the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
   the spirit of counsel and might,
   the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
   or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
   and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
   and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
   and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
   the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
   and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
   their young shall lie down together;
   and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
   and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
   on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
   as the waters cover the sea.

What a lovely picture.  We wait for a time of peace.  We wait for a time when the domesticated animals lie down with the wild beasts, for a time when the animosity of the wilderness is in perfect harmony with the tranquility of the shepherd’s field.

It seems hard to imagine.  With a world around us in so much turmoil– a war without justification that seems to have no end in sight; neverending hostility in Israel/Palestine; a failing government in Afghanistan which borders on allowing another humitarian crisis; a genocide in Sudan; a world that can produce enough to feed everyone but chooses to let many starve; Christians who choose political boundaries and fight to build fences on the border instead of fighting to bind together those ties which keep us all together as one human family; a world where “isms” run rampant- racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, and all those isms which use power to build up one group of people while putting another group down; and a people who disregard the gift of creation so much that they let it overheat to the point of melting right before their very eyes and still take no action to save it.

Still, we wait.  We hope.  We see what is to come.  It sounds foolish to some, but we place our hope in the salvation of humanity, in the ever-forward-moving goodness of the creation we have been given by the grace of God, that through Christ we are given the tools to bring about the kingdom of God here on earth.  And, in the broadest view possible, the arc of history bends towards justice.

Apartheid is over.  South Africa is free.  Slavery has come to an end here, though we have much work to do.  Women today have made huge advances over 100 years ago.  We are making forward progress on the work of equality in GLBT rights.  The cold war is over, so we can sleep at night without threat of nuclear attack (although again, we have work to do and must be ever vigilant against the threat of violence).  Christianity is beginning to help shape the world as Christ would have it be shaped, instead of passively sitting by and resisting the change.  It is beginning to heed the call to act like Jesus, instead of like the resistance to Jesus which helped crucify him.

Sometimes I’m asked why I stay in a church that doesn’t fully accept gays and lesbians.  My answer is simple:  I know this promise.  I know that the kingdom of God awaits.  I hope to write about St. Julian of Norwich some day soon.  Her struggle was partly one that realized that her experience of God was different than that which the church portrayed.  She realized that when your experience of God is different than the church’s, patience is required while the church catches up.  This is what Advent is partly a time to reflect on; whether it is the church, our local communities, the government, or the world which needs “catching up.”

We have hope.  So we wait.  We watch.  We prepare the way.  Our hope is coming.  The wolf shall live with the lamb.  It is our promise; it is the kingdom of God that awaits us.

j

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2 Responses to “Waiting for Peace”

  1. sion Says:

    “.. Julian of Norwich … realized that her experience of God was different than that which the church portrayed. She realized that when your experience of God is different than the church’s, patience is required while the church catches up.”

    This is the essence of the discussion I often have with others who left the church or disdain churches in general. They ask why they should be led by men and women who themsleves have not yet “caught up.” Valid question, don’t you think?

  2. Jeff Says:

    Thanks again, Sion, for posting.

    Yes, I do think it is a valid question.

    I also think that we have to ask ourselves why we need church in the first place.

    I do not believe that we are called to live our lives in relationship with God alone- that is idolatry of our relationship with God, as my required text for my course in spiritual direction pointed out just last night.

    We are called to live our lives in community. We are called to live in lives of community of faith, exploring together, learning how to reconcile together, to be in communion– together.

    We are called to learn how to define ourselves not by what we believe that is different, but but how we live our lives in common.

    We share a common God. If we have faith in that God, in that true vision of peace and hope in the future of what the God promises, then we work in our communities to reconcile as best we are able.

    Perhaps it is not always possible. I have experienced deep exclusion and I know others have too. Some relationships are not salvagable, and that is not what I suggest. But there is a middle ground of relationship, where we too easily brush off those who do not hold exactly the “right” opinions just because we don’t see eye-to-eye.

    I think it is there that God calls us to communion, to community.

    When we make peace in those situations, we are doing our best work as people of faith.

    (I purposefully ignored the world “lead” because I’m not sure I understand the context of the question in that sense. Priests and pastors are, in my view, special roles. They may imply leadership, but prophetic lay voices have just as much or more authority as clergy in many circumstances.)

    j


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