Dec 19

Longing for Emmanuel

“Emmanuel.” “God is with us.” What a beautiful phrase! How lovely that in Hebrew a single word, a name, can capture so much meaning. That can happen in English, too—Christopher: Christ bearer—but we’ve lost our sense of words and their play of meaning. Emmanuel, God is with us, though—it rings, doesn’t it. John Wesley, on his deathbed, cried out twice, “The best of all is, God is with us. The best of all is, God is with us.” What a great idea! God, the creator of all that is seen and unseen; with, for, not against, on the side of, not opposing; us, you, me, all of us, together! God is with us: Emmanuel! Continue reading

Dec 12

Creation Longing Together

Waiting can seem very lonely. This is especially true if you have been waiting a long time, or if you have a lot invested in whatever you’re waiting for, or if you have good reasons to be very hopeful or very concerned about what you’re waiting for. The more you wait, or the more urgent your waiting is, the more isolated you can feel from the rest of creation. You sit in the doctor’s office or the hospital lobby waiting for test results, and people just walk right by, without a clue that something dramatic, something life-changing, is about to happen to you. You circle a date on your calendar: that’s when he’s finally home! or, that’s when we close on our new house! But no one else has that date circled. You are by yourself, or in a very small group, in your waiting. You are on pins and needles, but the world shrugs its shoulders and carries on in its normal ways. Continue reading

Dec 05

Something Worth Longing For

“A shoot shall come out of the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of its roots.” This vision, of a faithful remnant of Israel, of an age when the Lord shall reign in peace, when “they will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain,” is not just given to Isaiah the prophet. This vision is a gift, entrusted to the community that is willing to live in faith according to the vision until the word of the Lord is fulfilled. The Lord gives his people something worth longing for, a vision of something to desire and seek, but the vision comes with the expectation that the people of God will cherish it, will honor the vision, will glorify to the One who has given the vision, by responding in faith not only in word but in deeds. The Lord gives the people of God this vision of something worth longing for, so that the people of God can live according to God’s word of promise. Continue reading

Nov 28

Still Longing

“In the days to come…” This is how Isaiah gets the attention of his audience. A word has come to him, a word concerning Judah and Jerusalem, a word for today that looks ahead to tomorrow: “In the days to come..” Something is going to happen, something worth waiting for, something worth longing for, so look up, look ahead, and wait for the days to come. “In the days to come…” the Lord will act, decisively, so pay attention. Judgment among the nations, peoples gathered in Zion to hear the Lord’s instruction and teaching, swords beat into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks, peace that will endure: the days are coming! And in the days to come… Continue reading

Nov 13

A Living Hope

Over the years, there have been some misguided souls who have taken Jesus’s words from Luke 21 as a picture of something to look forward to, something even to hope for. False prophets? Insurrections? Wars and rumors of wars and insurrections? Some people have been told to hope for these things, because when they start, supposedly, they will be signs that Jesus is coming again soon. Even worse, a few people have decided, from time to time, that we should make the signs ourselves, or at least lay the groundwork for them, to speed up Jesus’s arrival. In the 1800s, in the U.S., for the first time in the history of the church people started making charts and graphs to pinpoint the exact date of the end time, of the second coming of Christ. This started a way of thinking that still exists among some people today: a bizarre, strange hope for things to start going really badly, for destruction and chaos to take over, so that Christ will come again. This is a perverted hope, and one version I’ve heard of it in recent years has been among people who oppose caring for God’s good creation on the grounds that it’s all just going to be blown away anyhow. Continue reading