Friday, December 20, 2013

desert travelers

A walk in the desert. A glimmer. Something new, something good, something hopeful. Across the desert a mixed reception. An authority figure, not meeting the eye, but spreading suspicion in the corners of the room. All he says: When you find what you are looking for, let me know. Journey on. And there – did I mention you bear gifts of value beyond measure of money? – you find the beginning of a new order of the ages, in nascent glory.

Who are you? Wise ones from the East? Naomi and Ruth? Joshua? A family from the land across the desert?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

the kingdom of Heaven is upon you!

Sometimes I wish this calendar would go faster. I wish it was already Christmas – already Epiphany, to tell the truth – and the baby and the shepherds and the angels and the wise men had already come, and we were across the desert of Advent and we were safe at home on the other side.

An image: a way through the desert, a straight path, that we must travel to get home; a river, that we must get into, before we get home.

But we are not home yet. We have, at this present moment, a desert yet to cross – and a river yet to be waded into – before we reach the resting place on the other side, before we get home.

Every transition – and Advent is a time of transition – has three parts: an end, a muddle, and a beginning. And we are in the muddle.

We are in the present moment. Though it is the child of the past, the past is behind us now. Though it is pregnant with the future, the future has yet to come. What we have, where we are, is now – the in-between time, the muddle. We are in the desert, travelers from what has been to what will be. And that is good.

The present moment – in the desert – is where we meet the living God.

Offspring of the past, pregnant with the future, the present moment, nevertheless, always exists in eternity as the point of intersection between time and the timelessness of faith, and, therefore, as the moment of freedom from past and future. – Dag Hammarskjold, Markings (New York: Knopf, 1964: 100).

At the intersection of time and timelessness, now, we see our freedom to take hold of what God is doing – to bring into being in us the coming kingdom.

We are not there yet. We are on our way. We look back and say, for all that has been, - Thanks! We look ahead and say, to all that will be, - Yes!

Now, though, in between, we have some things to do.

What we have carried with us into the present moment we may have to let go of, now. Not with regret, but with gratitude.

So we go to the river. There is a man there. He stands by the water like a prophet of old, like Elijah. And he beckons us forward.

Each of us, all of us, are called to take responsibility, in this moment, to become the people God calls us to be, God made us to be.

The people who went out to see John in the wilderness knew they were not home yet. They lived in the City, the Temple was grander than ever, but something was still missing – something at the center of life.

So like the people following Moses out of Egypt, like the people returning from exile, they traveled into the desert.

Like the people coming across the desert, they come to the river Jordan. It is time to get wet. It is time to come clean – to wash all that away, all the encumbrances of the journey. You don’t need to carry them any farther – you are almost home now. Leave them behind. Come. Start fresh.

The Kingdom of Heaven is upon you. Change your hearts and your lives. The kingdom is being born right now. What does it look like?
How do we get there?

It won’t work to claim an “in” as a birthright. You can’t just make up a bunch of rules and follow them – there is no way to manipulate the system. You cannot crank the God machine until grace pops out.

Bear fruit that shows the change in your lives.

An image: an orchard that needs pruning – clear away the dead branches, so the fruit can grow.

A vision of the future: a fruitful orchard.
A vision of the kingdom: a place of peace.
A vision of what will be: all shall be well.

The kingdom is coming, in this present moment. We can express it in our lives – what does it look like? Justice. Reconciliation. Abundance. Peace.

The proclamation for today is this: Right now, in this present moment, the kingdom of heaven is upon you. Change your hearts and change your lives!