Sunday, November 27, 2016
HOPING ONE STEP AT A TIME
Beloved people of God, grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. AMEN.
Happy New Year! The First Sunday in Advent marks the beginning of the New Church Year. We tend to enter a new year with high hopes. But what happens in the new year often does not live up to our hopes and dreams.
Advent is a season of hope. The word “Advent” means “coming” or “arrival.” As we look forward to our celebration of the first coming of Jesus on Christmas and anticipate his second coming, we are filled with hope. Recognizing that all is not well in our world, we cling to the hope that the coming of Jesus will set things right.
afternoon I had a pleasant time with Eric and Jan Luttrell in
violent images of
I was coming back into town on Monday evening, so I planned on participating in the March. My intention was to share with you this morning my reflections on how the march went. It seemed like a hopeful way to begin the season of Advent.
But then Mayor Hales canceled the “March of Hope” after hearing of a planned counter protest. His goal had been to bring community leaders together in unity and to share a message of hope. Competing protests would more likely have communicated chaos and disunity. More violence could have ensued.
Mayor Hales issued this statement: "Canceling this event does not mean our community is canceling hope. I encourage everyone to continue to reach out to each other and stand against hate. Reach out to our immigrants and refugees who moved here because they believed this was a good and safe place. Reach out to people of color, the LGBTQ community, those with disabilities, and to everyone who needs reassurance in their everyday lives that their civil liberties will remain protected, and say that Portland is a safe place for all and that we will work to keep it that way."
Our Old Testament
reading, Isaiah 2:1–5, is a message of hope addressed to the people of God in
In response to
this disheartening situation the prophet Isaiah offers a word of hope. Isaiah
2:1 speaks of the word Isaiah saw concerning
Isaiah proclaims that “the Lord shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples.” He announces the end of violent conflict: “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” This was a powerful message of hope to a people devastated by war and violence.
Some may dismiss Isaiah’s vision as unrealistic. In the 17th century Thomas Hobbes asserted that human beings are in a constant state of war. War has certainly not disappeared in our own time. Apparently not much has changed from the time of Isaiah.
But a closer look at Isaiah’s vision reveals that he may not have been as unrealistic as it may at first appear. In verse 5, immediately following the affirmation that they shall learn war no more, Isaiah writes: “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!” In our culture we have a propensity to look for a quick fix to whatever ails us. Isaiah does not offer a quick fix. He exhorts the people of God to walk in the light of the Lord. He anticipates that his vision of hope will be fulfilled one step at a time. And he knows that the path will not be straight. The history of the people of God suggests that at times it may be two steps forward and one step back, and then one step forward and two steps back.
What is important is to keep Isaiah’s vision alive in every generation. What is the light that we are to walk in? Nothing less than God’s reign of peace. The Hebrew word is shalom. It refers to an absence of war and violence. But it also entails well-being of heart, mind, soul, and body and well-being in all our relationships to God, our fellow human beings, and all our fellow creatures. When God’s peace reigns, there will be harmony in our neighborhoods, communities, nations, and world. Social and ecological justice will be established.
We are to walk in the light of God’s reign of peace, therefore, one step at a time. Walking in the way of peace involves using our mind and all our God-given abilities to their fullest. But as Proverbs 16:9 reminds us, “the human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs our steps.” Those who walk in God’s light become beacons of light, signs of hope in our world. Walking in the light of God’s peace can be as simple as providing a Thanksgiving box for a family in need or buying a gift for a Giving Tree family. Such acts of kindness are visible signs of hope.
Sponsoring a Muslim Syrian refugee family has been challenging and could get still more challenging; nonetheless, it has been a sign of hope, a beacon of light in our troubled world.
Two of our young people, Amanda Bollman and Molly Hartshorn, have gone to Standing Rock to join the protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Hundreds of veterans plan to “deploy” to Standing Rock on December 4 as an unarmed militia in protest against the pipeline. The 1,172-mile crude oil pipeline has been an object of controversy for months. Protestors argue that construction of the pipeline would threaten local water supplies and desecrate culturally sacred sites. Since Standing Rock is happening on President Obama’s watch, he is under pressure to address the grievances being voiced.
Whether you fully support the protest or not, the protestors concern for social, ecological, and religious justice is a sign of hope. The protest has drawn international attention. It is amazing to see the diversity of people who have streamed to Standing Rock to join Native Americans who live there. They have been marching in hope. For a time Standing Rock has become a high mountain. Protestors keep on hoping one step at a time that justice will be done.
Obama’s 2016 State of the Union address, he stated that “we spend more on our military than the next
eight nations combined." President-Elect Trump has stated that he intends to
Come, people of God, during this Advent season, let us walk in the light of the Lord! Let us hope for God’s reign of peace one step at a time.
In Jesus’ name, AMEN.