Thursday, December 20, 2012

Reading Isaiah in the Wild West

Since the horrific shootings in Connecticut, I feel as though I've been wandering in a fog. I was home sick that day, last Friday when it happened, so I was aware early on that life had changed--again. Life changes (or it should) whenever we hear of an act of terrible violence near or far, but, as all the commentators say, "this feels different." This act of mass murder has peeled back America's the last deceptive layer of civility. What's been revealed -- the ugliness of a society in love with guns and violence -- is not easy to behold. It's as though we've taken a step back into the Wild West.

So our Christmas tree is up; the lights, by sheer chance, are blue.  Josh Groban is singing quiet carols in the background. Last night, Santa went by on a firetruck. My neighbors have an obscenely fat, inflated Santa on their lawn (most years I would have a snarky comment about this, but alas...this year, it hardly seems worth the effort).

So, I'm going through the motions, as I imagine many other people are. But I want nothing to do this year with angels, shepherds, babies in mangers. My nativity scene is still packed in a box.  Fable me no fables. Reality itself has become too much like a bad dream.

There is some comfort to be had -- the sharing of horror and grief. I have been inspired by the way Americans have come together in the wake of tragedy, to hold Newtown in their hearts. I have a friend, an Episcopal chaplain, who  joined a team traveling to Connecticut last weekend to offer what solace can be had. I wish I could do something concrete like that -- more concrete than anti-gun posts on Facebook or petition-signing, though the political will for change is prospectively important for the country.

What I am doing is reading Isaiah 60-61. In the words of the third, post-exilic, Isaiah, I do find hope, despite a realistic  acknowledgement that life has become very dark:

               60 Arise, shine; for your light has come,
                    and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
                    2 For darkness shall cover the earth,
                     and thick darkness the peoples;
                     but the LORD will arise upon you,
                     and his glory will appear over you.
                     3 Nations shall come to your light,
                     and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

               61 The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
                     because the LORD has anointed me;
                     he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
                     to bind up the brokenhearted,
                     to proclaim liberty to the captives,
                     and release to the prisoners;
                     2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,
                     and the day of vengeance of our God;
                     to comfort all who mourn;
                     3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
                     to give them a garland instead of ashes,
                     the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
                     the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
                     They will be called oaks of righteousness,
                     the planting of the LORD, to display his glory.

To bind up the brokenhearted. We already know how to do this. May God give us the grace to do the other needful things a peaceful society requires.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This, my friend, is depths of Advent - the almost physically painful desire for the coming of the reign of God, for things to be better NOW - not some other time, not in some shining future, but NOW... How long oh Lord? How many times have I said that, thought that?

I find deep comfort, as you do, in the words of the Prophet Isaiah, and in the words of the Apostle Paul (leaving aside for a moment some of the sketchier things in the pseudo-Pauline writings). I find comfort in the fact that Paul knew what it was to feel poured out like a libation, broken by and for the world. I find comfort in Paul's list of the many things - heights, depths, powers, etc. that shall not separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

It is, in a sense, always Advent in this world, in this already/not yet time, in this world of murdered children and devastating climate change and adolescents selling themselves on the streets of the richest city the world has ever known.

But it is also always Easter, always Easter in a world where God became, and becomes, Emanuel, God-with-us, and where a scruffy wandering young man (so much like my friends from Zuccotti Park) dared to challenge Empire, was executed for it, and could not be held by death or the brokenness of this world.

-the Episcopal chaplain