“Stand up! Lift up Your Heads, for your Redemption is coming near.”
“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On earth, nations will be in anguish… People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken” Not very pleasant stuff to listen to, is it? Certainly, not something we expect to hear; barely weeks away from Christmas: The baby. The Wisemen; The angels and, the star. Shepherds coming. Singing; heaven-like, both in the night sky and on earth. But it is so very real. Unheard of storms sweep across the continent with floods everywhere. Forest fires; ”Out of season,” we say; destroy whole towns. People, seeking a better life, band together and head for national borders and nations order their armies to defend them against entering. Journalists are killed and denied the right to question our leaders. The importance of jobs are defended against the healing of the environment and places of worship and learning are attacked by the forces of hatred. Women, yet again, are not given the dignity they deserve when they take courage and speak out. Our first nation’s people, continue to suffer the remains of colonialism with poor water, inadequate housing and broken promises-still. It is almost ‘too much”. It has become ‘too much’ for some. They have decided: not to read the newspaper, or watch or listen to the news; to talk with their neighbours or friends about such things. Just, get on with their lives. Focused on the family, a few, close friends and the things they want and enjoy doing.
For others, this has become personal: Watching friends, helping loved ones get on their feet only to see them get knock down again by life. Experiencing a life-long self-confidence suddenly show them a hidden weakness; a minor inconvenience now: for example, a day long brought of pain or soreness. A word, which just will not come to mind. A Task, now harder to do. All, Minor irritations of an otherwise, great life, but also hints, unacknowledged fully, perhaps; of what may be coming.
I have watched and listened to how we have chosen to respond: Folks, coming together; to protest-and defend. Lives of service to others; revealing self-destructive behaviour. With anger and hate, recalling the lives and actions of leaders of our past; with slogans and symbols which shock and divide us from each other, instantly. Respond, with a ‘numbness’, which almost seems to be, willingly accepted. Perhaps, a not yet fully formed. Shield, to keep at arms-length what is happening around us, touching innocent lives. An implied, “helplessness;” believing there really is, nothing we can do. As someone said to a group of us recently, “you know, it is getting harder and harder to get up in the morning and have at it. I find myself wondering, “what more is going to be said by someone?” Or, “what’s going to happen next!?” What I have not seen and heard, from people of faith and people for whom ‘faith’ means little if anything at all, is a reason for hope. Acting, because of hope.
It is one thing: when living blindsides you and you are completely unprepared for what happens. We can’t be faulted for feeling we are swimming against the tide and it takes us a while to figure out what we can do. But, it seems to me, this is something else entirely, when you know something is coming and you know, what you are called to do and how to do, what needs doing, when it comes. “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On earth, nations will be in anguish… People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” Listen: “when these things begin to take place, stand up and lift your heads for your redemption is drawing near! Stand up! Lift up your heads! For Your redemption is drawing near!”
But, what does it mean for us to be “redeemed?” This is not a word we use very much anymore. My mother used it a lot: When she went to the store. She had a coupon, to pick up something the store didn’t have when she went looking for it; often at a cheaper price. When she went, she ‘redeemed’ the coupon for that item. We call them: “Rain-Checks” now. So, I might have said: “Stand up! Lift up your heads! For your ‘rain-check’ is drawing near.” But that wouldn’t get close to the importance of what is being said here. For the people who look to this book, “redemption means “to be “delivered” and “set free.” In our stories, the prophet-leader Moses, for example, ‘redeemed” the Israelites, the people of God. He delivered them from slavery-to-freedom. From a way of life, a status, a way of understanding themselves and who they were; from something lower-to-something higher, greater, better, more life-giving than they had ever experienced before. Slaves were made-free.
If we take our understanding of who we are and our purpose for living from this book then we are living in a time between what people, far smarter than I am, have called: “The already, and, The not yet”. Now I’m going to go a little, “Evangelical” on you right now. But we know what the ‘already’ looks like. Jesus, by what he taught us and by his example, has shown us who we are. By what he did, the kind of world we can bring to life in the lives of others. This is the ‘already’. The ‘not-yet’ is the time period. The time between the already, what Jesus achieved through his life. And the “not-yet” the moment when he will return. Return to redeem us. Take us to something higher, greater, better, more life-giving than we have ever experienced before. We are moving not toward what we see and hear and feel every day. We are moving toward freedom. What we are called to do is to live now toward that freedom. Freedom by following what Jesus taught us and copying, to the best of our ability, what Jesus did.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking. It’s been said to me when I shared this with someone just a few weeks ago. They said, “what if I don’t believe in a God who intervenes in human life? I don’t because I’ve seen and experienced too much illness and death, destruction and war to believe it. If, as you say, they went on, “God is a God of love; then a God of love just would not let these things happen. Human beings are the creators of their own lives and human beings will cause their destruction or their future by the choices they make; no one and nothing else.”
I could have lowered my head. Said something like, “you’re entitled to believe what you believe; God still loves you.” But I’m not finished yet. Scientist’s, who study the evolution of the universe have said, “evolution, is constantly moving forward. Moving forward, through times of disintegration and reintegration; breaking down and then building up.” In my words, from something lower-to-something higher, greater, better, more life giving that we have ever experienced before. You will have to decide: Whether what I say now is dishonest or not. But, could it be said: The Scientists, studying evolution and this first-century Jewish-Christian are saying the same thing? Using their own life experience and knowledge each of them had, to describe what they see and believe is happening?
Either way: moving forward or choosing to follow the example of Jesus, our choice is the same: God knows, there seems to be hundreds of people who have chosen to hurry along the disintegration of our society and our earth. To let themselves be cocooned in a certain numbness. Living life for themselves, those they love and what is important only to them. But we have a choice. We have a choice: To continue that path, or to move forward, to reintegration, building up from the new things life gives us. Following the teachings and example of Jesus helping to set people and all life free. And, forgive me, if I think people of faith are just a little be ahead of those who look to evolution, for we are guided by love. And, if love guides evolution, as some do believe, then we both have our purpose. A reason to hope. One of the hardest and most rewarding to do, living and acting now in love, living in hope. May this be ours. AMEN.
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