Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Romans 15:4-13

Paul tells his readers in this week's reading from the Epistle to the Romans that a backward glance into Israel's scriptures should give them reason to hope for the future.  If they keep their eyes open to what is presently happening around them in a church which is bringing together elements of society which had previously been at enmity into one fellowship in Christ, they should again have reason to hope for what is to come.

So to where the risk lies:  to the unseen future.  Paul launches into a blessing at the end of the passage.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

Belief here is not mere credulity.  Not all whims and hungers will magically be provided for.  You've never promised your own children that.  When you usher your grown children into the world, with some assurance that things will be well, you are not telling them that nothing will ever go wrong.  You are telling them, hopefully, that they now know enough to find their way through.  And that the ideals they have gleaned from the communities of their childhood are valuable.  Most importantly, they are portable.  They can be exercised in new circumstances and within new communities long after grandparents, parents, parish priests and teachers have gone to their reward.  The past and the present prepare us for the future.

So, too, with Paul's description of hope, but with an added dimension.   Yes, those who desire to be numbered among the servants of the living God can harvest from the past and the present exactly what is needed to take the next step in a new direction.  But God, through the power of his Holy Spirit, also walks along with his Creation and moves within the human family he is drawing to himself.

All of the "fear nots" of the Gospels are here present - that whole history of faith which stretches back to Abraham.  We are a part of that history.  What he has done in the past, he will do again.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Psalm 122  

"Jerusalem is built as a city that is at unity with itself"  

If you've ever been to Jerusalem you know that the countryside is divided with high walls.  Unity?  How accurate is that today?  Was it accurate during the 20th century, maybe, or during the days of the Ottoman Empire?  How about the Crusades or the dying days of the Roman Empire?  How about the time of Jesus?  Go back even further:  Add the Persians to the mix or the Babylonians.  

You might hold out for some shred of glory and unity in the days of David or Solomon, but I suspect that even a cursory reading of the Books of Samuel and the Books of Kings moves more in the direction of Jerusalem being a place of intrigue, energy and turmoil.  Civic and religious unity in the Holy City?  Possibly not.

I can attest to the fact, though, that the city is alive this day with pilgrims.  From all countries in the world men and women meander through the groups of soldiers in east Jerusalem on their way to places which stand, for them, as symbols of wholeness, unity and transformation.  What do they see that the news media doesn't?

We are perhaps looking for the wrong thing. The reality of the world always appears to contrast with the reconciliation God promised to Abraham and with what the prophets saw in their visions. What Mary proclaimed in the Magnificat and what John the Baptist foretold is not negated by the humanity of Jesus and the initial rejection of his message by many. With such a vision of unity (with God and between people) in the heads of faithful people, schools and hospitals are built, sinners are forgiven, strangers are welcomed, the poor are provisioned and nations are evangelized. These are as incontrovertible a series of facts as any disaster on the front page of the newspaper.

We are in the business - you and I, John the Baptist, Mary and King David - of seeing "into things" and not merely describing what has hit us on the head.

Keep your eyes open.  Act on the vision!