Tag Archives: hope

Isaiah 61

This year I learned how important Isaiah 61 is. And I’m not going into that right now, just know that, in the back of your heart. What I want to mention, what I can’t stop feeling, are verses 2 and 3, where the anointed one is coming to comfort those who mourn.

In versse 2, the annointed one will proclaim the day of the Lord’s vengence for those who mourn.

In verse 3, it is more tender, the anointed one will provide for the mourners with a garland instead of ashes; with an oil of gladness; with a mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.

The ones who mourn are a part of those who need to hear the good news: the oppressed, the brokenhearted, the captives, the prisoners. In fact, perhaps it is a Venn diagram. If you are oppressed is there an element of mourning? If you are a prisoner, perhaps you are mourning the loss of fellow soldiers?

Or even the other way around: if you are mourning are you not oppressed and brokenhearted? Are you a captive and a prisoner of the mourning?

In December of 2020 are we not all mourning and brokenhearted at least, with all the Covid dead, sick, and suffering? And that’s not even all the other loss of 2020.

Comfort oh Comfort us, Comforter of all. Not like a blanket. Not like sweet words. Provide us what we need, and free us from what we don’t. Lift us up to see more than our own trouble, and even more than our neighbor’s suffering. Help us to break — with Your help in the mysterious day of vengeance if that’s what it takes — the built in, systemic injustice of our world and help us mourn our own failures not just our own losses.

And comfort us, please Holy God, comfort us with hope.

Come Lord Jesus, quickly come!

Interrupted by music

I love this song: There Was Jesus by Zach Williams with Dolly Parton . This song is really a thousand times too sad for my life; yet somehow it speaks to me anyway. Something about “the waiting” … we are all waiting now yes? Waiting seems empty and forsaken or forgotten but maybe it is just a chance to lean on hope.

A Prayer for Hope

May each of us vote wisely and with love. May we hope for justice like an ever-flowing river. May we pray for love and mercy like the air we breath — above us, in front of us, behind us, to each side, breathing in and breathing out. May love like the air we breath connect us one with another.

May we think on history — each of our unique family’s history to start. Is it a story of immigration like my mother’s family, escaping a pogrom of hate against Jews? Is it story like my father’s family, lost to memory of why, committing to a new country for reasons we don’t know because it was so long ago?

Let me pray that we can accept the richness of our Country’s history, the good and the bad, and the underlying hope for the future. The inherent generosity of our Country. The inherent risk of nostalgia. The past was not Eden. The future may not be either. But if we know what needs improving and each of us does at least a little, then there’s hope. If we work together and bind up our broken hearts together, we can have hope.

Let us mourn for the damage to the Earth and Water. Let us mourn deeply the loss of life to the pandemic. Let us mourn for unfair risk just day by day living can bring to black and brown people. Let us mourn the trans youth who can see no way forward. Let us mourn the families that take a breath and come together when things get hard and love on each other anyway.

We are stronger together and let us pray to our vast mysterious but ever-loving ever-creative God that Way always always always opens and the Light always defeats the dark.

Amen

Luke 1:39-56 and anguish

I haven’t made much progress on getting verses 50 to 55 by heart or even studied. For one thing, I was interrupted by reading Walter Brueggemann’s book The Prophetic Imagination, which is amazing and life-changing and made me realize how very very little I know and how amazing and beautiful God is.

But Brueggemann insists that we get to hope through anguish, through lamentation, through feeling the despair. If we stay numb, if we stay apart, if we isolate away from heartbreak, then God and his breath of life can’t work through us to provide hope and change. You can’t get to hope and change, with God, if I understand Brueggeman, except through the pain. In fact, if we just satiated ourselves and stay numb the powerful are happy with us because injustice won’t end and the powerful stay powerful.

I think that’s the gist of the book — read Bruggerman’s book! It is dense and yet beautiful. I will be reading it again, slower.

So back to Mary and verses 50 to 55 — “He has shown strength….scattered those with proud thoughts…brought down the powerful….filled the hungry” — all these verses are saying that God wants justice and God wants everyone to have enough and God will remember and help.

Only — it’s been a couple thousand years since Mary sang her song of hope and victory out loud. Things look pretty grim. The rich get richer, the corrupt are ruling our country and others, the earth is dying, disease, flood, fire, death — it is everywhere. I want to feel the hope in Mary’s song, and I do believe in God’s love for each of us, but my heart is just heavy. I am in a place of lamentation, not rejoicing; a place of fear not a place of hope.

I get angry when I read these verses of hope. Angry like the fire of a thousand suns. Angry when I read the news.

Then I get guilty and fearful and I turn away.

Oh God, help me trust in you, help me hope, help me learn. Help me accept fear and suffering and anguish just as you did, and keep hope, keep love, alive. Just as Mary and Elizabeth did.

FTGOG

Interrupted by the Real World

Besides the pandemic, racial and other injustice, and an environment that is heading no where good, I’ve had a family loss and a bunch of family stress.

In the midst of this, mostly my mind and heart and soul are just blank. Numb. It is so strange. I should be crying or doing stuff or… I just sit down and feel slow and stuck and numb. My guess is that in a while this phase will end and some new phase will start.

So for now I’m just going to be where I am, and wait, and hope.

Stay Safe!

FTGOG

Genesis 2:1-3 and finishing

“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude.” (2:1)

Yet when you think about it, nothing was finished. Things hadn’t really started yet. We have a living breathing alive stage and creatures and humankind and plants and an order of day and night, light and darkness, signs and seasons. But the story hasn’t even really started! There will be love and death and floods and terror and horrible things and betrayals and lust and gifts and journeys and promises and so much. There will be talking donkeys and shepherd boys and desert and cities and whales and battles and the tears of women. There will be birth. Everything is about to start.

Jesus on the cross repeats these words according to the Gospel of John (19:30): “When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” But nothing was actually finished. We have coming the whole glorious Easter morning and the creation of the church and the wild spirit of God descending and even more journeys and shipwrecks and imprisonment and fear and joy.

It is the worst sort of cliche to say “every ending is a beginning” but I seem to be headed in that direction. Or am I headed more in the “as it was in the beginning so it will be, world without end” sort of place?

But I want to cling to the hope that what is finished opens the way for new and better and good and hopeful and truthful. And cling to the sure and certain knowledge that God has got even this in his hands, and the power of corrupt systems has already been defeated. We can be our better angels. We could finish tearing down corrupt systems and Easter-up new systems of peace and calm and hope and community and equality and justice and environmental renewal. Of joy.

What God did after creating everything was (1) to rest, (2) to build rest into the fundamental system of the world, (3) walked in the Garden with Adam and Eve, and (4) when it all got messy and broken, God gifted them with clothes. There was hope in the mess as well as grace. God didn’t leave the story.

Ultimately God came right into the mess with us, incarnate in Jesus. And Jesus after dying got real busy: harrowing hell and recreating himself in the dark of the tomb and then walking and eating and talking again with clear messages. Feed my sheep.

Jesus on the cross is the ultimate picture of systemic human violence hurting an innocent. The cross reveals the brokenness, just as Easter reveals the hope and renewal and ultimate victory.

So rest up and then let’s get busy. Let’s find the sheep and feed them. Let’s speak up to fix broken systemic systems according to our gifts. Let’s be kind.

For the glory of God, in the midst of everythings, let’s be kind to each other.

Pandemic and Balance

It seems to me that I have lost my balance both real and metaphor. I have dropped nearly everything I pick up. I have spilled so much water. When I try to pray I feel the room or maybe the earth spin. Metaphorically, I am balancing joy and hope against despair and rage. I am walking a thin line called “now”. Now is fine. Now is truly fine. Let’s stay in Now. When Next becomes Now, that’s fine. Don’t look too far ahead. Don’t keep playing the past over again on a tape. Don’t “forbode joy” as the marvelous Brene Brown spoke of in her Netflix special. Don’t ruin the present Now thinking of how it could end.

The gentle Sarah Bessey pointed to a column by the delicious writer Nadia Bolz Weber entitled “Optimism Won’t Save Me But Neither Will Worrying About Shit.” I feel like Nadia is a best friend that I never knew who read my mind and says my thoughts better than I do. Nadia writes, “You must have faith that you will prevail in the end. And at the same time you must confront the brutal facts of your current reality. When I stop and check in with myself I must say – I believe we will prevail. As shitty as this all is, I have faith in the power of human love and creativity and resilience and kindness and humor. And I believe God to be the source of our love and creativity and resilience and kindness and humor, which means there is an eternal supply on which to draw when we just don’t have what it takes. “

Yes.

Yes.

That is exactly what I think salvation is — whatever happened on the cross, whatever happened on Easter, whatever the incarnation is — our salvation is that we are not alone trying to see in the dark. We are gifted and enchanted with this beautiful double vision and strong enough to see what is really happening, and what remains, and how to act.

For the glory of God, by the grace of God. For right now.

More about Salvation

It’s because I’m taking the class about salvation and science fiction and fantasy; so everything is salvation all the time. I’ve learned already in new module 3 that all the substitution/satisfaction theories have fatal flaws, one of which is violence. Violence begats violence. One part of one reading looked at “mythologies” and …. wow…. I had no idea. Humans are horribly violent. So one possible reading of what Jesus did on the cross was to use nonviolence to change the world, defeat evil, defeat death, break the power of evil and evil systems. In fact, his life (as another reading detailed in a once-over-lightly of a big topic) can be seen as non-violent and countering violence, countering systems of oppression, countering and defeating “powers and principalities”. He has already fought the battle and won. (This is the “Christus Victor” theory of salvation for those playing at home.)

Just not quite yet. The salvation represented by this victory of the cross, this in-breaking of heaven, or shalom, or whatever word you want for the healing and love and God-with-us is not just for ourselves but for the systems on Earth and the very Earth itself. And it is sure and certain.

Just not quite yet.

This is a deeply complex view of things. It is completely realistic — in fact the world is very far from being free of oppressive systems of violence and injustice. And yet it is hopeful because the victory is assured. Hope, because love and peace and mercy and justice — it will all happen.

This is harder to understand that Jesus-forgives-me. And harder to have faith in. Maybe I don’t have a big enough brain! There is so much to learn! This is just the skim! I am so daunted.

And yet of course this solves all sorts of problems left entirely untouched by the Satisfaction/Substitution theories. Especially it clarifies that God had no role in Jesus dying on the cross — God does not need Jesus to die, like a sacrifice, to be appeased.

I think it was just last year, on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday or something — we had a cross at the front of the sanctuary and buckets of nails and hammers and note cards and pens. You put a sin on the card and you nailed it to the cross. Everyone participated, sort of row by row but not quite that formally. The noise! The noise of the hammering made me want to cry. The many sins we nailed up, for personal demons and societies’ evils, and nature’s ills — that made me want to cry. It was profound. Besides the sound of hammering — it was completely quiet. Not a song, not a violin, not a baby crying.

If I had a hammer…..

FTGOG

How do we love our enemies?

So I can only speak for myself but I am so very tired of hearing stuff like, “the problem is the country is polorized”; “the problem is the country is split”; “the problem is both sides won’t compromise”.

That’s complete nonsense because their side is wrong.

Wrong on the environment. Wrong on immigration.Wrong on mass incarceration and gun violence prevention and mental health care and women’s rights to control their own body and …. everything big basically.

If they want to apologize and step out of their extreme zone and step closer to the middle, we could listen.

But we’re here. We’re in the right. We’re in this zone where right is. I am not being funny. The world is at stake. Democracy is at stake. Basic humanity and civility and the rule of law is at stake.

So no, I’m not going a step toward them.

So how do I love my enemies?

One way is to say all that I just said, like a prophet with a word of truth. One way is to vote, which I am very eager to do. One way is all sorts of postcards and letters to my politicians and so on. Which I do. And all sorts of the things, yes? You know, fighting the good fight for honor and democracy. Which is a little funny because how can that not be a little funny?

But as a Christian — really truly all-in loving Jesus Christian — that’s not quite enough right? There’s that whole love your enemies thing. There’s the that whole do onto others and love the sinner and we’re all sinners, we’re all far from the mark, we’re all cloudy mirrors for God’s glorious light on even our best days. So what in the world do I do with this tension?

I don’t have an answer.

Some days I rage. Some days I block it all out. Some days I just make conversation and don’t get political. Some days the anger and fear and frustration gets into my writing. Some days it gets into my bones.

But every now and then, there is just a glimmer. Not really hope exactly, but a glimmer or a flutter of a wing that says: hold space for change. Maybe just an inch. But the story that God is writing isn’t over, and in God’s story love wins. So let’s take a step back from despair if not toward compromise of principles and lets just hold space for change.

Maybe that’s enough. Today. For the Glory of God.

Merry Christmas and Happy Everything

Yes, I love King and Country’s version of Little Drummer Boy… and I thought nothing in life or death could make me like that song. ha!

Let us all pray: God of the Universe, God of rocks and flowers and hearts and love, help us bring our best selves, our bright angels, to 2020 to partake in the healing of the world. There are so many things in need of healing; help us find where our great joy meets the world’s great sorrow and help us get cracking (adapting Frederick Buechner’s lovely words ). Help us to know that any act of kindness is healing. Help us to know that sometimes silence or gentleness is what is necessary. And likewise, sometimes, even if it isn’t “ladylike” or “nice”, sometimes injustice must be met with clear pure anger and a righteous determination to foster change and hope.

Holy God of the Universe, in the midst of all this, protect all those I love and all who love them and all who love those who love them and so on, forever.

Amen.