What New Thing?
Monday, December 10, 2012 -- Week of 2 Advent, Year 1
Karl Barth, Pastor and Theologian, 1968
Thomas Merton, Contemplative and Writer, 1968
[Go to http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html for an online version of the Daily Office including today's scripture readings.]
Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 936)
Psalms 25 (morning) // 9, 15 (evening)
Isaiah 5:8-12, 18-23
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Terrible things can happen to nations and people. There is a foreboding backdrop for each of today's readings. Isaiah feels the threat of Assyria building toward Israel. He chides the leaders who are more interested in joining "house to house" and adding "field to field," who spend their time immersed in their own wealth building and distracted by their entertainments. He condemns the injustice of their lives.
Luke writes in the shadow of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. These are terrible times that bring woe upon all. Even the natural world is disrupted. And Paul speaks to a community that expects the immanent coming of the Lord "like a thief in the night," a time of sudden destruction which they must be prepared for.
Yet all three writers see below the threat and reinforce words of faith. The God we follow is the God of history. God intends to save and comfort God's people, even through and beyond great suffering and crisis. Therefore, do not be afraid. Be of good courage, trust God, and act with integrity even if things seem to be falling apart all around.
Our ultimate claim is that God has entered history, taken on our life completely in Jesus, revealed the nature of human integrity, faced the fullness of darkness and death, and overcome all through resurrection. But death is the vehicle for resurrection -- death of the individual, yes, but also all of death's other forms. Sometimes villages die, sometimes nations. Institutions, thought patterns, dynasties, ideas, societies die. Ways of doing things, particular identities, understandings, and relationships all are contingent. But what God does best is resurrection, bringing new life out of the old.
Whenever we live threatened by the shadow of death, it is always, as Jesus says in Luke, a time to "stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." God is always doing a new thing. Whenever we experience threat, we can raise our perspective and ask, "What new thing is God doing?"
When old ideas lose energy, when relationships wane, when institutions crumble, when things unravel, when we feel decay, when understanding fails -- stand up and raise your heads. Look to the horizon of the impossible possibility and seek the first light of whatever new thing God is bringing. Deal as compassionately as you can with the ravages of the sufferings, and always have one eye and one ear alert to the new creation of resurrection.