Friday, December 2, 2011

Waiting for Resolution

Our scripture texts for this second Sunday of Advent are Isaiah 40:1-11, Psalm 85:8-13, and Mark 1:1-8. Read them in advance of Sunday here.

As a writer, one of my weaknesses is picking a verb tense to use throughout a piece. My editors are always telling me, "Abby, just pick one and stick with it!"--but still I find myself shifting back and forth, not quite sure whether the story I am telling is one past, one present, or one future.

In our Lectionary Bible Study this month, we noticed that the writer of Isaiah seems to struggle similarly to resolve his verb tenses--in the same passage, an event can be spoken of as past, present, and future; an action can be now and not yet; a reality can be complete and yet unseen. Such tension is typical of prophetic literature which connects God's past actions to what God is doing in the present and what God has promised yet to do.

Take, for example, our passage this week from Isaiah 40--a passage which helps this book make the turn from the impending threat of exile to living in exile and looking beyond it. Listen to the things that are said to be past, present, and future actions of God or God's people in this text:

In the past: Jerusalem "has served" and "has received"; the Lord "has spoken"

In the present: God's comfort, tender speech; we are to cry, prepare, make straight; we wither, fade; we must get up, lift up, not fear, say, see; God comes, rules.

In the future: The landscape shall be lifted up, shall be made low, shall become level; God shall be revealed, the people shall see and shall cry; God will stand forever, will feed, will gather, will carry and gently lead.

This week's Advent theme is that of peace, and peace--past, present, future--is an idea that this passage invites us to consider in all of its manifestations. How are we waiting for the resolution of tenses and tension in our own world--for peace to prevail? What has our experience of peace--or lack there of--been in the past? What is our present experience of peace? What is the future peace we envision and move towards? What is our role in all of this, and God's role, and the role of all the earth?

Big questions not easily resolved--but may we resolve to wait and wrestle with them in this season where we draw near to both what is now and what is not yet, even as we feel the continued impact of all that has been.

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