Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Advent4: Hope for the Ravaged

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me;*

Can a baby-in-waiting be anointed?  Can greatness reside in a mother’s belly?  Where do babies come from?  The imaginations of their parents?  Or, rather, the imagination of God?  

he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
    to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and release to the prisoners;

When Dr. King read Isaiah, he saw hope for the oppressor as well as the oppressed.  I wonder, do I?  Do I see hope for those who seem to have it all?  For the bad actor among us, within me?  And what of the prisoners who so richly deserve their captivity?  Are they released?  Is there liberty for them?  I do so surely hope, for in their captivity is mine; in their release is my liberty.

 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;
 to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.

The year of the Lord’s favor . . . oh, Lord, for but a day, an hour, a moment, resting in your favor, surely a king would render up a kingdom . . . surely we would render up all else . . . surely we would . . . wouldn’t we?  And yet I am still moved to ask where joy, where hope in the day of your vengeance?  It is not a prayer I, not oppressed, not captive, can pray, for who on the receiving end of your vengeance would seek it?  Not I.  Nay – my gladness must reside in your mercy, your tender forgiving side – there does my hope reside, for I have no right to claim your vengeance, I on the side of the oppressive ones, can find no comfort there.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.

Oh to be of your garden, to stand fast as a tree planted by you, to point heavenward with my arms as my call – what wondrousness is this, the privilege of proclaiming your glory with my life – would that it were so.

 They shall build up the ancient ruins,
    they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
    the devastations of many generations.

Here, then, the promise, the crop yield, the fruit plucked . . . glorying you do the weak ones, the captive ones, the oppressed ones, come into their own, these rebuilders of cities, these redeemers of the ravaged – themselves formerly the ravaged ones . . . and ruined cities and generations worth of devastating destruction will be not erased but repaired . . . 

and Chernobyl will be repeopled . . . and Zaporozhiya will be no threat . . . and Nagasaki and Hiroshima will flourish . . . and Dresden and London, Pompeii and Antigua, Lisbon and San Francisco, Baghdad and Berlin, Ferguson and Ninevah testify to the truth of your promise and former devastations and ancient ruins will resurrect

and the challenge will be, the challenge is, that we, your people, your creation, see your power in the works of our hands as well as yours . . . that we, your people, your creation, strive towards raising up, not tearing down . . . that we, your people, your creation, dare to dream your cities in the beauty of the nights of our own destruction. . . and hope.

*Isaiah 61.1-4

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