Monday, March 7, 2016

God is about to show up and do something extraordinary.

I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
and its people as a delight.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
or the cry of distress. (Isaiah 65:17-19)

More often than not, the lectionary gives us wisdom and inspiration right when we need it. That happened -- at least for me -- this morning as the Eucharistic lectionary for Monday in the fourth week of Lent gave us this from Isaiah.

It's from the third part of Isaiah. The people of Israel have returned from exile but even though they are home, all is not well. When they were in exile, they dreamed of the wonders of return, and -- don't get them wrong, it's much better than being in exile -- life is still really, really, really hard. There is still deep brokenness in relationship between God and the people and among the people themselves.

All is not well. All is not as it should be.

And then God says this:

I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
and its people as a delight.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
or the cry of distress.

We Episcopalians don't like to talk about eschatology -- the end times. We don't like to talk about it because that conversation has been so associated with fundamentalism, fire & brimstone and the Left Behind series that we fear being tainted by association.

But we avoid (or even reject) our eschatology at our own great peril and sadness. Because our eschatology is our hope, that sure and certain hope that no matter what things seem like now, that God is always about to do show up and do something extraordinary. That sure and certain hope that even the worst conditions are redeemable and transformable.

That sure and certain hope that is expressed in the protest chant: "I know that we will win."

I spent a little time this morning having a "conversation" on Twitter with a downtown resident who is frustrated about homelessness downtown and thinks I and Christ Church Cathedral aren't doing enough about it.

I share his frustration. I want all of us to be doing more. I want us to be learning each other's names across class and race lines. Listening deeply to each other's stories. Pooling our resources to ensure that every person lives in a way that befits the dignity that should be accorded an image of God. Dismantling systems that oppress by helping some have much and others have not nearly enough.

I wish there was an easy answer. A switch to flip that makes it all better. A way to get us all on the same page and swimming in the same direction.

And I'm tired - and we all are.

We are tired that poverty abides and even grows -- though I am not nearly as tired as those images of God among us who truly live in poverty.

We are tired of the complexities and messiness of coming together across boundaries of race and class -- though I am not nearly as tired as those images of God among us who are parts of targeted races and classes.

We are tired of having the same meetings and same conversations and hearing the same tired program proposals that have never been fully funded or implemented because we can't muster the political will.

We are tired of family members and friends being diagnosed with cancer or incapacitated by strokes.

We are tired of the intractability of broken systems of education, policing and municipal government.

We are tired of giving money to really wonderful nonprofits and then feeling like things are still getting worse.

We are tired of friends who betray us and leaders who govern by fear & fiat instead of faith & vision.

And if we are tired in this nation that has the most privilege, power and highest standard of living of any nation in history ... imagine how tired the rest of the world must be.

And yet, in the midst of this, God sings out:

I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
and its people as a delight.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
or the cry of distress.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to be fools in the eyes of the world. We are called to believe after a human history of struggle that God is about to show up and do something extraordinary. And even more, we are called to trust that God will do that extraordinary work of re-creation, redemption and transformation through us. That our hands are God's hands. That our ears are God's ears. That our lips -- lips that speak, lips that sing, lips that kiss this world deeply and passionately -- are God's lips.

We are at that part of Lent where the time in the desert feels like it will never end. And our Lents are much longer than 40 days.

Together, let us try not to fear.

Together, let us try not to lose hope.

Together, let us strain to hear and trust that God is about to show up and do something extraordinary.

Together, let us trust that God is about to create a new heaven, a new earth, a new Christ Church Cathedral, a new St. Louis.

Together, let us offer ourselves anew to be part of that new creation, foolish as the world may tell us we are for believing in it.

Together, let us join God in proclaiming in joyful song that God looks at God's people -- each and all of us -- who are destined for that new creation -- and God does not despair but instead rejoices and delights.

Together, let us shelter each other when we need rest, and wipe away each other's tears.

And together, let us claim our belief that the day is coming when the sounds of weeping and cries of distress indeed will be no more.

That God is about to show up and do something extraordinary. And that we get to be a part of it.



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