Trans-generational Vision

Short recap

Over the last three weeks as we have journeyed through Advent I have been exploring my concept of a trans-generational vision[1]. My concept of the trans-generational vision rests on the vision not simply spanning across the generations, but on it remaining as true and relevant in each succeeding generation as it has been in the generations previous. The task in each generation is to engage the vision so as to unlock its truth within the particular context of the here and now.

Going back to the celebration at the end of November of Christ the King as the culmination of another Church year, I noted [2] that Christ the King is less a celebration of an individual kingship of Jesus than it is a recognition that in Jesus we have the arrival of the Kingdom of God. In Jesus the Kingdom breaks into temporal time in a new, and for Christians, a final way. From this point onwards, the Kingdom is here. Yet, the Kingdom challenges our concept of linear time, for while it is already here as manifested in its signs of a call to love and justice, it remains for us, within the boundaries of temporal time, not yet complete. Hence we talk about the Kingdom of God as being both present now – in temporal time, and yet in trans-generational vision terms it is still in the process of coming.

Narratives of the birth of Jesus

Matthew, and Luke, following Mark record the baptism of Jesus as an epiphany of Jesus as the Messiah. Matthew follows Mark more closely in locating this event within the context of the preaching of John the Baptist who, in temporal time is Jesus’ cousin, yet in trans-generational vision time is Elijah come again announcing Jesus as the Messiah. While Luke makes no mention of John in his account, for Mark the baptism of Jesus comes right at the very start of his gospel account. Matthew and Luke on the other hand begin their gospel accounts with the story of the Nativity of Jesus.

We tend to conflate the Matthean and Lucan accounts failing to notice that they are both quite different. Only Luke has Shepherds and only Matthew has Wise Men. In Luke the focus is on Mary. In Matthew the focus is on Joseph. Matthew mentions Herod and the danger he poses to the newborn Jesus. Luke makes no mention of this.

The Lectionary for 2013 gives us Matthew’s account of the Nativity. In Matthew’s account the trans-generational vision is colored in particularly Jewish hues.  Matthew’s is a very Jewish gospel where Jesus is portrayed as the new Moses who comes to bring a new Law, a law no longer confined to the Jews, but a new Law, inviting all people to enter into the promises of the Kingdom. This inclusive invitation is a characteristic of the trans-generation vision as it emerges in the prophecies in the Book of Isaiah. Isaiah’s hope re-emerges in the Christian era as hope of inclusion, realized.

Another important characteristic of Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus is the focus on Joseph, the righteous Jewish man. Rather like Matthew and his community, Joseph is challenged to transcend the limitations of his Jewish culture-bound worldview in order to hear God’s very particular call to him. Many commentators explore the huge cultural implications for Joseph in his decision to go through with marriage to a pregnant Mary.

In adding the Wise Men and Herod into his account, Matthew asserts his Jewish identity through the implicit association between the infant Jesus and the infant Moses. Moses was also born into a dangerous situation with Pharaoh seeking the death of all newborn Israelite males. Moses’ mother conceals her son in the bulrushes, where ironically he is discovered and adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter. Joseph, soon after the birth of Jesus must flee with his wife and son from Herod’s murderous rage. He takes the familiar refugee road to Egypt. Given the significance of the connections being drawn between Jesus and Moses the irony of Egypt as a safe refuge is not lost on Matthew, nor should it be lost on us, given the current tragedy of the refugee crisis in Syria and elsewhere in our own world.

The kingdom of God

The Kingdom of God:

  • Comes in the form of a child, born in obscurity, and surrounded by circumstances that place him in considerable life-danger.
  • It comes as a challenge to conventional cultural values as represented by a righteous man Joseph. God calls Joseph beyond his conventional expectations of how things should be and to step beyond the security of what he knows and expects into the considerable risk of actions that carry unknown consequences.
  • It comes through a young woman whose conceiving of a child is the result of a mysterious and as some contend, a miraculous process, flying in the face of the normal laws of biology. 

What matters here is how we in our own time and place receive the trans-generational vision of the Kingdom in order to unlock the truth of the Incarnation for a world in desperate need of its Good News. In this task we are burdened by the  thinking of modernity, shaped by a scientific revolution that has conditioned us to assess any claim as either true or false according to our capacity, now much enhanced by technology, to verify its veracity through external observation.

The fallacy of true or false

Matthew nor Luke construct Jesus’ birth narratives in order to articulate a true or false dichotomy. Neither of them write from a place of ignorance with regard to the biology of procreation. It is just that both Matthew and Luke hold a pre-scientific view of truth. Unlike ours, theirs concept of truth is more nuanced. They hold an enchanted[3] understandings of truth in which the everyday is charged with the mysterious and inexplicable action of God.

For Matthew and Luke the virginal conception is a truth, which is neither affirmed nor denied on the basis of its probability or improbability, as seen from the perspective of everyday experience. Truth emerges through events that ordinarily are improbable because such truth invites us to move beyond the blinkers imposed upon us by  the confines of an everyday experience that is too small for us. The paradox of modern life is that now free to move about the external world in ways unimaginable to even our parent’s generation, we nevertheless carry around within us an ever shrinking capacity for imagining ourselves in the world.

A truth for today.

The Incarnation is the powerful truth that has never been more needed by our own world today. The Incarnation as truth-claim does not rely on us having to accept or deny the veracity of the seemingly supernatural elements in the birth narratives. The supernatural within these narratives has no explanatory function at all. Rather the mystery which shrouds reported events has a protective function that prevents any one generation dumbing-down the mystery of God’s actions only to that which is capable of rational comprehension.

In Matthew and Luke the function of the narrative of the birth of Jesus is to point us to the realization that at a certain point in the unfolding of the trans-generational vision of creation, the Creator voluntarily becomes subject to the limitations of being part of the Creation. The Creator enters into within the experience of the Creation. The how of this happening is beside the point of the story.

I believe the function of the narratives of the birth of Jesus is to attest that being human, fully human, reveals something fundamental about nature of God. The trans-generational Messianic vision now anchored in the events of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah is the way God calls us to live out the fullness of our humanity as an expression of an essential truth that we are made in the image of the unseen God.

As human beings we are made in the image of God. We are invited through the Incarnation to value ourselves and the created world, because God clearly does so. When we follow God’s lead, we labor with God to continually co-create a world fit for human beings to live in. This is a world shaped by the signs of the Kingdom.

In the Kingdom of God despite appearances to the contrary, love is stronger than hate, the passion for justice confronts systems of injustice enshrining self-interest, exclusion of others as an expression of our fear gives way to a spirit of generous inclusion of all.

In our own time following the cataclysm of two world wars, we once dreamed of a better world captured by the phrase a land fit for heroes to live in.  As the radical in-breaking of the Kingdom of God, the Incarnation – the birth of Jesus as Messiah, is God’s way of showing us what it means to be fully human, and what a world fit for human beings to thrive in, might look like!

Hope Springs Paradoxically

Random Thoughts

Like many of you I grew up with the two-year Lectionary cycle from the Book of Common Prayer, in which the Third Sunday of Advent was the Sunday on which we finally got to direct attention more specifically to the coming event – the birth of Jesus as a babe in Bethlehem. This is why the pink candle in the Advent Wreath sits in third place. For the last two Sunday’s we have focused on the coming of Jesus as Messiah in what I referred to last week as the trans-generational vision, a vision so clearly articulated by the prophet Isaiah in his dream of a future in-breaking of the Kingdom of God.

This Sunday will be my last stint in the pulpit for a while. Next Sunday Canon Bill Rhodes gets to talk about what, half-consciously, I had been looking forward to talking about, i.e. the message of the Angel Gabriel to the young girl Mary about the coming birth of her son. I will be taking a short break between Christmas and New Year and Deacon Myra Kingsley will be sharing the Word on the 29th December. On the 5th January Father Troy Mendez, the incoming Dean of Trinity will be with us.

So it was with a little disappointment that I was jerked back to the reality of the three-year Ecumenical Lectionary which keeps the joyful Annunciation stuff to the last Sunday of Advent. This change, although a little unsettling, emphasizes the counter cultural message of the Church in a world. Around us the world has already virtually celebrated Christmas already with lights, trees and infuriating popular Christmas music. The rich repertoire of Advent music has been lost to our popular culture. Maybe it never noticed it. At least, I keep hoping for some traditional carols in place of endless Bing Crosby and his more contemporary ilk.

Well, one thing is for certain at Trinity, we are not lighting the pink candle today. It now needs to wait to the last Sunday of Advent. My residue of brain-dead Anglo-Catholicism balks at such a radical departure from tradition, yet it is only sensible to keep the consistency between Advent Wreath and Lectionary.

Today we jump way ahead from chapter 11 to chapter 35 in Isaiah. Last week, I referred to the dream Isaiah has during the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem in 715 BCE as a trans-generation vision. By this, I mean that it is as true now as it was then because even though much time as elapsed between 715 BCE and today, Isaiah’s words remain a pertinent reminder of the way the Kingdom of God plays with time. Historically speaking we stand after the events of the Incarnation and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, through which God dramatically fulfills the promised in-breaking of the Kingdom.  Isaiah stand before them, nevertheless we are connected by this trans-generational vision because for us the Kingdom, while here, is still in the process of becoming, in the same sense as it was for Isaiah, a here, but not yet ,kind of thing.

Within the book of Isaiah we now jump some 200 years. While chapter 35 is a continuation of the vision of chapters 2-11, it’s not the same person speaking. Chapter 35 is the voice of the man scholars refer to as Second Isaiah. Second Isaiah, writing in the name of the great prophet 200 years and several generations earlier picks up the thread of the trans-generational vision in the midst of another crisis, this time the invasion by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians. The Babylonians succeed where the Assyrians had earlier failed to capture Jerusalem. In 715 the Northern Kingdom of Israel was destroyed. The southern Kingdom of Judah is spared only to fall victim to a similar fate in 597 BCE. Now, Jerusalem is destroyed and the southern Kingdom’s leaders taken into 50–60 years of exile in Babylon.

Second Isaiah, like his forerunner, is still speaking out of turn. He is still speaking against the grain of time. In the midst of impending crisis and this time doom, he still finds the voice to speak-out the dream of expectation. At the time of the prophecy this is a continuation of an expectation of improbable things[1]:

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. … Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.

Hope is a many paradoxical thing

Last week Matthew’s Gospel introduced us to the figure of John the Baptist. Today we jump forward seven verses to the time. Herod has imprisoned John and as John languishes helplessly in prison, he hears reports of the things Jesus is doing. John, in ordinary time is the cousin of Jesus. John in the trans-generational vision is the forerunner announcing the coming of the Messiah. John is deeply disillusioned by Jesus’ performance as Messiah. Jesus’ interpretation of what it means to usher in the reign of God is not at all what John is expecting. John’s message was a call to repentance with the promise of dire consequences for those who failed to heed the call. This is a message still much favored by religious figures who like to cast themselves in John’s image of the religious firebrand. His was an expectation of the Messiah as a mighty warrior returning to set things right.

John somehow gets word to his disciples telling them to go ask Jesus what on earth does he thinks he is doing? The accusation is barely veiled in the question: are you the one who is to come or are we to wait for another? Jesus does not say to John’s disciples: you go tell John he can’t speak to me that way. Instead he asked them to go and tell John what they see and hear: that the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. Note that in answering John, Jesus is paraphrasing the prophecy of Second Isaiah we heard in the Old Testament lection for today: Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. Jesus is clearly mindful here of the trans-generational vision of the coming of the Kingdom.

There is a sting in the tail of Jesus’ message to John for he ends it with: and blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me. Jesus immediately affirms John’s importance in the trans-generational vision. John is more than a prophet, for he is Elijah come again. Jesus says that as human beings go, there is no-one more important than John the Baptist. Yet, the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. The rebuke is clear. It’s a rebuke for John. Yet, it echoes down the trans-generational vision as a rebuke for you and me. Expectations for the coming of the Kingdom and the signs of its arrival are not necessarily in sync with one another.

For two weeks I have been quoting from a section from T.S. Eliot’s poem East Coker. In it Eliot reminds us that while hope is important, to hope necessarily will involve hoping for the wrong thing. It’s inevitable that as human beings we will latch onto a set of expectations that, like those of John the Baptist open us to the inevitability of disappointment and maybe even disillusionment. Like John our hopes are a projection only of what we already know. Because our expectations are so conditioned by our sense of the possible they are too limited to be accurate signs of the Kingdom’s coming. Remember Isaiah’s dream of the Kingdom is a dream of things manifestly improbable to any rational view of things. The result of our disillusionment is that like for John, Jesus becomes for us a source of offence.

Living in the paradox of hope and the coming of the Kingdom

I arose on Saturday morning around 5.30am to begin to put some thoughts to electronic paper in preparation for Sunday’s sermon. As I made coffee I switched on the radio. Alongside urgent reports on Christmas shopping trends, the NPR end of year pledge drive urging me to take advantage of the tax code because of course, I require financial compensation for any acts of generosity; there was a further report on the situation in Syria. As if the unspeakable brutality of the civil war were not enough, the weather is now conspiring to increase the burden of misery for the refugees, poorly clothed and house in the face of freezing conditions. My automatic response was to be filled with a sense of futility that compounds my guilt along with my sense of helplessness. In the face of such terrible suffering, not only in Syria and Iraq, but also currently in sub-Saharan and central Africa, and the anniversary of the slaughter of the innocents of Sandy Hook being marked by more gun violence in Colorado, I want to cry out: God, what on earth do you think you are doing? How can I hope for the coming of the Kingdom when everywhere I look I see signs that confirm the futility of such a hope. In my disillusionment Jesus the Messiah becomes a source of offence to me.

Expectation verses hope

My expectations have often been disappointed in life. My expectations often have turned out not only to be wrong, but too limited. Events have come about which have been so much richer and more fulfilling than anything I could have dreamed of if left to bring about only the contents of my own imagination. As I reflect on this in the light of my expectations of the kingdom I have to acknowledge that my sense of time frame is too limited. Like John I want to see what I expect to see, and I want to experience its fulfillment now! As I look back over my experience I can see a crucial distinction between what I shall call expectations and something else, which is more properly hope.

Hope is not the fulfillment of my optimism to come to directly experience the truth that things will be all-right in the end. Yet hope is, that things will be all-right in the end! In the meantime as my life journeys towards that ultimate realization I move from moment to moment propelled by more limited expectations, some of which are fulfilled while many others open me to repeated disappointment. Despite disappointment, even disillusionment, the long-term direction of my travel continues guided by the compass setting of hope.

How do we keep the long-term direction of travel fixed on the compass setting of hope? We do so as we come to see that the direction of travel set by hope is not detoured by disappointed expectations along the way. Paradoxically, it is fed and strengthened by repeated disappointment and disillusionment. Hope is the projection of longing born of two things. The first is faith. The Letter to the Hebrews explains faith as the realization of things as yet unseen. We trust and believe in developments and outcomes, which we cannot yet imagine. The second thing is dogged perseverance born out of our sense of loss and grief. Through perseverance fueled by a desire for things to be different we courageously act in the present time by performing acts of love, taking steps in solidarity with others, one act and one step at a time.

Word and action out-of-place

Isaiah’s vision of the Messiah goes against the grain of reasonable expectation.  It’s a word out-of-place. Jesus performed the signs of the Kingdom and these failed to realize John’s Hebrew, messianic desire for liberation from oppression. As Jesus tells the crowds, great though John is, his expectations precede the arrival of the Kingdom.

We are those who come after the in-breaking of the Kingdom event for Jesus is the Messiah. At one level, things don’t appear to have changed much. Yet, to be Christian is to believe that everything has changed. For within the reign of the Kingdom through our actions, our embodiment of the word and action that is out-of-place, our hopes and dreams ultimately contribute to its emerging. The fruits of Christian history are not as the cynics claim a legacy of hate and war. Those are endemic to the human condition, which when unredeemed is to act from fear and the hardness of heart. The fruits of Christian history are the advances of compassion and justice into a world, which in Jesus’ time knew neither. We may complain that its emergence is slow, but it is also unstoppable.

I keep reminding us that we have a part to play in the interpretation of the trans-generation vision of Isaiah in our own time. Our part is to take our place as baptized members of the community that continually speaks the word out-of-place, and acts against the grain of societal expediencies.

One of the great early figures of the anti-slavery movement was a woman named Sojourner Truth, a brilliant and indomitable slave woman who could neither read nor write but who was passionate about ending unjust slavery and second-class treatment of women. At the end of one of her antislavery talks in Ohio, a man came up to her and said, “Old woman, do you think that your talk about slavery does any good? Do you suppose people care what you say? Why, I don’t care any more for your talk than I do for the bite of a flea”.“Perhaps not”, she answered, “but, the Lord willing, I’ll keep you scratching”.

Barbara Lundblad commenting on this passage notes we must be determined and persistent fleas…Enough fleas biting strategically can make the biggest dog uncomfortable.  And if they flick some of us off but even more of us keep coming back with our calls, emails, visits, nonviolent direct action protests, and votes —we’ll win.[2] 

In Advent let our hope be encouraged by being taking our part in the unfolding of the trans-generational visions for the coming of the Kingdom. Along side Sojourner Truth, over a century later the theologian Paul Tillich wrote: that for which we long for into the future already conditions who we have become in the present. In the context of hope, the psychologist Alice Miller wrote: we are already who we have been waiting for. And the poet T.S. Eliot reminds us continually that although the human-conditioned objects of our hoping and loving will often be misdirected, hoping and loving come to ultimate fruition in the faithfulness of our waiting.

[2] cited by Barbara Lundblad, who is the Joe R. Engle Associate Professor of Preaching
Union Theological Seminary, New York, NY at

Seeing beyond the Facts.

Just the facts

It’s always a little dangerous to allude in a sermon to anything from TV or cinema occurring much before the early 90’s because in a fast changing culture with increasingly diminished memory span, it’s the quickest way to date oneself as irrelevant. So let me explain that one of the oddities about growing up in New Zealand was that because we didn’t get TV until 1960 I grew up on a diet of American TV shows that by the 60’s and early 70’s were often at least 10 or more years old. I mention this to account for the fact it’s not that I am so old, but that I share the same TV memories as a generation of Americans much older than me. So with that qualifying explanation out of the way, some of you may remember Joe Friday, the hero of the long running detective series Dragnet. In what to us now seems an astonishing display of sexism, Friday implored his female witnesses to: give me the facts, Ma’am, just the facts. So here are some facts.

After the death of Solomon the Kingdom of Israel, which his father David had welded together out of the 12 tribes of Israel, split in two, with a northern kingdom of Israel with its capital at Samaria and a southern kingdom of Judah with Jerusalem as its capital. In 721 BCE, the Assyrian army captured the Israelite capital at Samaria and deported the king, nobility, and priesthood of the northern kingdom into captivity. This left only the poorest of the peasantry, who over time intermarried with the foreign peoples around them producing the racially mixed Samaritans we know about from Jesus’ day.

The virtual destruction of Israel left the southern kingdom, Judah, to fend for itself in the whirlwind of warring Near Eastern kingdoms. At the time of Samaria’s fall, there existed two kings in Judah — Ahaz and his son Hezekiah — who ruled as co-regents. Judah existed as a vassal to Assyria during this time and was forced to pay an annual tribute to the powerful empire.

In 715 BCE, following the death of Ahaz, Hezekiah became the sole regent of Judah and initiated widespread religious reforms, including the breaking of religious idols. He re-captured Philistine-occupied lands in the Negev-dessert, formed alliances with Ashkelon and Egypt, and made a stand against Assyria by refusing to pay tribute. In response, Sennacherib attacked Judah, laying siege to Jerusalem.

It’s in this political context that the prophet Isaiah proclaims his extraordinary vision of a future time when out of the ruined and burned stump of the once mighty Davidic kingdom there will spring a new shoot. The new shoot is a metaphorical allusion to the Messiah, the promised one. He will rise up to restore the fortunes of Israel. Last week we heard that when he comes swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. In the midst of impending crisis and destruction, Isaiah dreams of improbable things.

Moving beyond the facts

Today’s first lesson gives us more of Isaiah’s vision of improbable things. Isaiah envisions that:

the wolf will lie down with the lamb, the leopard with the kid, the calf and lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.

What seems to me to be the most startling thing, another of the facts, as Joe Friday would say, is that Isaiah’s picture is of the Messiah coming not as a mighty warrior, but as a little child. It is not surprising that the early Christians understood this prophecy as a direct reference to Jesus’ birth and therefore, a powerful corroboration of their claim that Jesus was the promised one, the Messiah.

Last week, I noted that the season of Advent invites us to bold expectation, diligent preparation, and courageous and patient waiting. I return to my reference to the great theologian Paul Tillich who said: …if we wait in hope and patience, the power of that for which we wait is already effective within us. Those who wait in an ultimate sense are not that far from that for which they wait. 

Tillich’s is such an important message for us, for we are a people who no longer believe that we should wait for anything; so powerful is our need for immediate gratification. Consequently, our dreams are too small being too conditioned by so-called reality. In my view one of the characteristics of our current period is that we have lost the courage to dream, seeming to prefer the accommodation with a culture that is increasingly fearful.

So if we only expect the familiar, what we already know, then we are in real risk of bringing about a future that is simply a projection of our past. Expectation by its very nature must be of things that seem to us from our present vantage point improbable if not impossible. Advent reminds us that we must try to live life with more than an expectation of the future as a projection only of what we assume to be possible.  To do otherwise is to remain firmly within the limitation of past experience. In other words expectation is dreaming beyond Joe Friday’s, just the facts Ma’am.

What are we waiting for?

Christianity gives us a trans-generational vision, which is the dream of the coming of the Kingdom of God. It’s a vision that in each generation remains as authentic, valid and true, as it has ever been. Yet, we cannot accept a previous generation’s interpretation of that vision. We must engage with the Christian vision in order to unlock its truth for the particularity of our own time and place. Our Christian vision emerges out of the story of Jesus as Messiah. This story sets the agenda for our present-time where we must work tirelessly in the service of the Kingdom. The significance of the Kingdom of God is that it is both now, and yet to come.

Matthew’s Gospel reading for Advent II introduces us to the character of John the Baptist. John emerges in time and space within the unfolding of our trans-generational vision. In time and space, John is most popularly identified as the cousin of Jesus. In the trans-generational vision John symbolizes the return of the prophet Elijah, whom it was believed had to appear first to announce the arrival of the Messiah. John, in time and space, the cousin of Jesus now steps into Isaiah’s vision as the voice of one crying in the wilderness: prepare the way of the lord, make his paths straight. The blogger Bruce Epperly brings out the commonality and connections between John’s dream and our dream as he writes:

John dreamed of the peaceable realm and so do we. He never lived to see its full embodiment, but he planted seeds that enabled Jesus to move forward as its messenger and embodiment. John is Advent personified: he embodies the fierce urgency of the now, but not yet. He is impatient with our foolishness and sin, and wants us to be better. As Advent messenger, he knows that salvation occurs through the transformation of one person at a time. This very moment is the right time for us to let go of the past, turn away from our half-heartedness and complicity with injustice, and find a new pathway to God’s peaceable kingdom, one step and one breath at a time.

Our Christian vision has a past stretching a long way back through the prophecies of Isaiah and the other great prophets of Israel into the primal Genesis narratives of creation. This long, trans-generational vision becomes our Christian vision when it finds its anchor point in the Incarnation and Resurrection of Jesus as Messiah. In Christ, God came to dwell within the conditions of the creation. In Christ God has acted once and for all. Yet, once and for all is clearly not realized all in one fell swoop. The meaning of one fell swoop, is to accomplish everything that needs to be done at the same time and in the same moment. The Kingdom is here, and yet, its full meaning only unfolds over time.

Our expectations, if they are Kingdom shaped, will seem to us to be improbable, even impossible because only a Kingdom vision provides the courage and motivation to move beyond the limitations of imaginations conditioned by the familiarity of the past. There is a 21st century chapter in the story of the unfolding of the Kingdom within which we have our crucial role to play.

The prophet Isaiah dreamed of a time when under the leadership of the most vulnerable and fragile of all God’s creatures – a nursing human child – the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea. John the Baptist understood that the Kingdom comes with a fierce urgency, with no time to waste. We dream our way forward guided by the expectations of the Kingdom unfolding through our welcoming it. To welcome the Kingdom means turning away from our half-heartedness and complicity with injustice, finding a new pathway to God’s peaceable kingdom, one step and one breath at a time (Epperly). 

Paul Tillich reminds us if we wait in hope and patience, the power of that for which we wait is already effective within us. Those who wait in an ultimate sense are not that far from that for which they wait. Alice Miller, one of the great psychologists of the 20th century echoes Tillich when she says we are who we have been waiting for. To paraphrase T.S. Eliot: that which we hope and long for is made real only in the waiting (T.S.Eliot in East Coker). Expecting, preparing, waiting is our work in the season of Advent.

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