Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
If you have been paying close attention to our election campaigns—at every level of government—over recent years, you will have noticed that we Americans seem to have a great hunger just now for “hope” and “change.” Many candidates for elected office—some more strident and vulgar than others—have even made these elusive realities the explicit watchwords of their campaigns with such slogans as “Hope”; “Change You Can Believe In”; and “Make America Great Again.” And this is hardly surprising in the wake of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression; widening income inequality; amoral globalization with its random winners and losers; and the protracted and continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, together with ancillary military operations in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and in Iraqi Kurdistan against ISIS. And just when we in the west thought that the “Cold War” was a thing of the distant past, the world’s two largest nuclear powers are in a stand-off once again in east central Europe—this time in Ukraine, Crimea, and the Baltic nations—in what The New Yorker magazine has just this week officially dubbed the “New Cold War.” War, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, economic recession, environmental degradation, predatory globalization, and expanding income inequality have made it clear to all save the most obtuse that our present course is simply unsustainable at every level of world governance. We now need deep, structural changes and a new international system as a matter of mere species survival. Continue reading →
Few things can be more upsetting to a child than acknowledging that his or her parent is not all-powerful and not all-knowing. If something is awry in the parent’s life, it is not unusual for the child to blame him- or herself, then, rather than risk the parent seeming fallible and the child’s world falling apart.
In today’s text from Isaiah 10, Assyria is threatening the surrounding nations, including Israel. Isaiah – like the child who does not want to risk the parents’ fallibility and the world falling apart – ascribes Assyria’s belligerence to God, saying that Assyria is “my rod in anger” and that “the club in their hands is my fury.” It may be unsettling to think of God using a violent nation to serve God’s purposes, but in ascribing Assyria’s belligerence to God, Isaiah preserves God’s omnipotence and omniscience, Isaiah preserves the order of the world. Continue reading →
Redemption [in the mythological sense] means redemption from cares, distress, fears, and longings, from sin and death, in a better world beyond the grave. But is this really the essential character of the proclamation of Christ in the Gospels and by Paul? I should say it is not. The difference between the Christian hope of resurrection and a mythological hope is that the former sends a person back to his life on earth in a wholly new way, which is even more sharply defined than it is in the Old Testament. The Christian, unlike the devotees of the redemption myths, has no last line of escape available from earthly tasks and difficulties into the eternal. But, like Christ himself, he must drink the earthly cup to the dregs, and only in his doing so, is the crucified and risen Lord with him, and he crucified and risen with Christ. This world must not be prematurely written off. In this the Old and New Testaments are one. Redemption myths arise from human boundary-experiences, but Christ takes hold of a man in the center of his life.
— From Dietrich Bonhoeffer to Eberhard Bethge written from Tegel prison, 27 June, 1944
The desert in our lives is the place where in our poverty, our sin and our need we come to know the Lord… Part of our poverty may be that we are not even aware of our longing for God, only aware of the suffocating burden of our own sinfulness, of the slum within. But the desert is the place of confrontation not just with our sins, but with the power of God’s redemption. You come to see it as the place where there can be springing water, manna to keep you going, the strength you never knew you had, the surprise of the quail that plops down at your feet, a tenderness that cares for you and a knowing Lord. These things are not the Promised Land, but they are tokens of love and may be sacraments of glory. Your life, your prayer, can be the wilderness to which you must look steadfastly if you would see the glory of God.
— From The Coming of God by Maria Boulding (1929-2009)
“I’d love to have that one back again.” Serious sports fans who watch the post-game interviews will have heard the phrase. Pitchers who let a pitch hang too long so that it was hit for a game-winning home run will say it: “I wish I could have that one back again.” Quarterbacks who under-throw the ball and have it intercepted on the final, losing drive of the game will say it: “I’d love to have that one back again.” Golfers who miss an easy putt that costs them the tournament will say it, too: “I wish I could have that one back again.”
I bet all of us have had times in our life when we would love “to have that one back again.” Maybe it was something we said or something we did. And even though we said it or did it many years ago, we might still wish “to have that one back again.”
The Israelites to whom Isaiah writes this morning’s lesson had a real-life opportunity to “having that one back again.” Continue reading →