The Purity Bubble is a Bleak Place

Recently, the Hallmark Channel got itself in a bind with the vocal minority group of conservative Evangelicals who oppose same-sex marriage and LGBTQ+ equality, when it aired a commercial that included a same-sex wedding and two women kissing. After a number of these people squawked about the ad, Hallmark decided to pull the commercials – but in a matter of a day or two, they reversed that decision and apologized for the decision to yank the ads. In a separate matter, the head of Hallmark had recently been quoted as saying the network would be open to future programming featuring same-sex couples.

In the midst of the uproar from the conservatives, I saw many of them leave comments on the Hallmark Channel’s official Facebook page saying basically the same thing – that they were upset that “the gays” were intruding into the safe space that they took the network to be for exclusively conservative, straight, Evangelical Christians – the supposed last bastion of comfort they could slip into without having to encounter gay people and having their extremely narrowly defined world challenged or threatened. Many of them left messages telling Hallmark that they were canceling their subscription, and that they would NEVER (their use of caps, not mine) buy anything from Hallmark, or watch their programming, EVER AGAIN.

Of course, it was mostly nonsense, since Hallmark has been selling gay-themed cards and other objects in their retail stores for years, and a number of Hallmark’s most beloved actors are actually gay. It didn’t really matter – this was just the latest Moment of Outrage in the culture wars.

One of the interesting recurring comments made in all this ran along these lines, after the obligatory rehash of all-caps shrieking and moaning about feeling betrayed by the situation: “I know that some of the Hallmark’s actors are gay, but I just don’t watch those shows – I want to have a place where I don’t have to have gay people being shoved down my throat.”

Setting aside that bizarre mental image – despite its positive aspect that having any person, gay or otherwise, actually shoved down their throat would at very least get them to shut up – their sentiment got me to thinking about their wish to live inside in that kind of “Purity Bubble.” What kind of existence would that be if they actually did avoid any exposure to or contact with gay people and their contributions to society? Imagine a remake of the classic “It’s a Wonderful Life,” where instead of the main character wishing they’d never been born, they’d wished that gay people hadn’t. What kind of revelations would Clarence offer up to that distraught person whose Christmas wish was wanting to live life in the Purity Bubble?

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Clarence: OK, your wish is granted. Gay people have never been born….

Given that this is a Christmas movie, let’s start with that. Do you love to get your Hallelujah Chorus on for the holidays? Well, think again. Its composer, George Friedrich Handel, was gay. So right off the bat, POOF! (wait, can we use that word here in the Purity Bubble?) It’s gone. Go Hallelujah yourself.

Conservative Evangelical: Well OK then, I’ll miss that, but at least the rest of Christmas is safe for us good, conservative Evangelicals. If we can’t have the Hallelujah Chorus, we can enjoy other things – like the great, traditional Nutcracker Ballet.

Clarence: Oh, no, no – The Nutcracker was composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, who was also gay. So no, there is no Nutcracker Ballet for Christmas here in the Purity Bubble.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, Fourth of July celebrations are a lot less impressive here, too, since Tchaikovsky also composed The 1812 Overture, which so many fireworks displays are choreographed to – or at least, were choreographed to, but in the Purity Bubble, Tchaikovsky was never born.

Conservative Evangelical: OK, well, even though they wouldn’t be quite as rousing, the fireworks could set the fireworks to some nice wholesome songs by Johnny Mathis,  Barry Manilow or – oh yeah! Some good, rousing, all-American music like Fanfare for the Common Man by Aaron Copland!

Clarence: Nope, sorry – gay, gay, and gay. They never existed; their music never happened here in the Bubble. For that matter, while we’ve detoured into the Fourth of July and good, wholesome patriotic music, there’s also no Battle Hymn of the Republic, written by Fannie Crosby, and no America the Beautiful (“Oh Beautiful, for spacious skies…”), written by Katherine Lee Bates – they were both lesbians.

But let’s get back to Christmas. Just think of those Christmas cards you send, featuring those beautiful, lush Renaissance paintings of Mary and Jesus, and all the famous Nativity stories. Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio – none of their artistic masterpieces were ever created. Here in the Purity Bubble, the Sistine Chapel is painted Navajo White and has a lay-in ceiling. So, when you’re sending out those cards, maybe you’ll have to decorate them yourself.

CE: That’s OK, we can do that – in fact, it will be a nice wholesome, family-friendly activity that can all – hey, wait… where did the Crayons go?

C: Oh, there aren’t any Crayons here. They were owned by Hallmark, and you know, that’s what started this whole exercise. Sure, there are those other brands, but we all know they aren’t anywhere as good as Crayons.

CE: Well that sucks… I mean, stinks. Maybe I’ll just watch some traditional Christmas shows instead. I know, I’ll put on How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

C: No, you won’t. Dr. Seuss’ books are full of inclusive, pro-gay messages so his books don’t exist here, either.

CE: No they weren’t! I never saw anything in Dr. Seuss’ books about gays!

C: Well, not if you’re looking for the word gay. He was more subtle than that. Think about it: Horton Hears a Who – the community of Whos doesn’t exist until they scream out “We’re here, we’re here!” Horton Hatches an Egg – a man takes over childcare from a negligent mom and is an excellent “mother.” How the Grinch Stole Christmas – through newly-discovered love on both sides, an odd outsider is welcomed and accepted into the community. Green Eggs and Ham – pre-judging something is wrong; when you’re exposed to something unfamiliar, you may find out it’s really OK. And of course The Sneetches – people getting all worked up and superior and exclusionary because of meaningless differences. Oh, yes, the messages were there for everyone to see. In fact, the government of China saw, and banned all of his books as teaching dangerous, decadent messages. And at leas one California school district banned his books because they saw his subtext and didn’t want to include books that advanced “the homosexual agenda.”

CE: But wait! Dr. Seuss wasn’t actually gay himself, so the Grinch should still be OK!

C: Well, people presume he was straight. But that doesn’t matter; what’s important to you Purity Bubblers is not supporting the “gay agenda” at all. Remember, this whole shitstorm started when you all complained that Hallmark was summoning in the end of civilization as we know it just for broadcasting a commercial including a same-sex kiss. So no, there is no Grinch here in the Bubble.

… what’s that? Oh – sorry, Joseph, I forgot myself.  Make that “crapstorm.”

CE: OK, from now on, no more Dr. Seuss. I can still read other great books to the kids.

C: Well, I don’t know, an awful lot of them don’t exist here in the gay-free zone, since many of the world’s most cherished classic children’s books were written by LGBTQ+ people. Don’t bother looking for any of the Frog and Toad books – the author, Arnold Lobel, who died from AIDS in 1987, was gay. Neither is Strega Nona, or anything else by Tomie diPaola, who is gay. I’m not sure Where the Wild Things Are, but they aren’t here in the Purity Bubble, since author Maurice Sendak was gay – here, the wild rumpus will never start. And your littlest ones have no Runaway Bunny, or even Goodnight Moon to have read to them, because their author, Margaret Wise Brown, was bisexual.

CE: All right. But still, we can have a nice, wholesome, non-gay influenced Christmas.

C: Maybe, but it will be a lot quieter one. Handel and Tchaikovsky were far from the only LGBTQ+ people who helped to shape our Christmas. There are Christmas classic songs by Johnny Mathis, David Bowie, Wham! – I mean really, the list goes on and on and on. Let’s just say it’s going to be a far less wonderful time of the year, since you didn’t want all these gays shoved down your throat.

And it doesn’t really end there. Those memories you have – well, you think you have – about your life? So many of them never happened. A number of your favorite childhood teachers, coaches, neighbors, friends, family members – they simply never existed here, because they were LGBTQ+.  In fact, several of your straight friends and family members never existed here in the bubble either – you see, Alan Turing, a gay man, was the inventor of the modern computer, which was developed in order to break German codes during World War 2. His invention allowed the Allies to know where German ships and submarines were, and to keep them from attacking Allied ships. But without Alan Turing, the computer was never invented, the Allied ships were sunk, and a number of your family and friends never existed. The Allies lost the war because there was no Alan Turing. Of course, it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway – there are no computers here in the Purity Bubble.

And it gets worse. There are so many people who aren’t here, because there were never any gay doctors, nurses, firefighters, EMTs, police officers, soldiers. They weren’t around to give birth to them, provide health care for them, save them in times of emergency or war. You, and the rest of the people who want to live in the Purity Bubble, have said that being gay isn’t natural, because gays can’t create life. The truth is, there are so many people alive in this world specifically because of gay people – and isn’t that just as life-giving?

CE: I know I’m supposed to be happy here in my “safe space” – but Clarence, I’m starting to really not like this.

C: You may not have realized it, but the LGBTQ+ people that you wanted to get away from, and who you wanted to discriminate against, have really been all around you, all the time, contributing to the world, and your experience of it, in so many positive ways. They’ve been people who have made the world a better place. They’ve been your friends, neighbors, relatives. We’ve just barely scratched the surface here, but the truth is that if you removed everything in your life that had something to do with LGBTQ+ people, it would be a terrible existence. So much of what has made the world good, and enjoyable, and safe, and beautiful, and yes, “family friendly,” were the result of LGBTQ+ people.  You see, friend, you really had a wonderful life when gay people were a part of it. You spent so much of your time threatening gay people that they were going to go to hell – but look around you. With this Purity Bubble that you wanted to live in – didn’t you end up creating a real hell for yourself?

jimmy stewart on bridge

CE: Clarence, I don’t want to live in this Purity Bubble any more! This is terrible – I want to go back! I want to live with gay people again! I want to live with gay people again!

Johnny Mathis: “…. For, we, need a little Christmas, right this very minute, …

CE: Yes! Yes! Merry Christmas, Johnny Mathis! Merry Christmas everybody!

bell ringing

 

Hope with Legs

(sermon 12/22/19 – Fourth Sunday of Advent)

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Matthew 1:18-25

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.

But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
   and they shall name him Emmanuel’,
which means, ‘God is with us.’

When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

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A few weeks ago, on the first Sunday of Advent, the sermon was all about hope, since that was what the first candle on the Advent wreath symbolized. I have to admit, though, that as I preached that sermon, I felt a littlbe bit like a hypocrite, because honestly, as of late I’ve had trouble finding hope, or feeling hopeful, about much. It seems like no matter where I’ve looked, I see the divisions and hostility. I’ll see something awful, and I’ll think “Oh my gosh, things can’t possibly get any worse,” and I wake up the next morning and see the news, and find out it has. And it isn’t just here in this country; it’s a worldwide phenomenon. With all the setbacks that we’ve seen in being a compassionate and just human society, I’ve just reached a point where it’s become very difficult, almost impossible at times, for me to summon up any sense of hope.

And I know that I’m not alone. In fact, it’s become an identifiable phenomenon in mental and emotional healthcare circles, that a large part of our society has developed this same loss of hope, and has settled into a state of dread and despair because of what they’re seeing and experiencing in a world that they increasingly can’t even recognize.

For those of us here in the U.S., this dread has been caused in large part by our own history. As early as the 1830s, the French diplomat and political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville studied and wrote about this relatively new “American Experiment,” and he noted that possibly the most significant difference between Americans and our European counterparts was this hope embedded within us – this strong optimistic belief that in American society, progress and goodness was inevitable – it was nothing more than the linear outcome of just continuing to work at it, and do the right thing. It was something you could count on like the sun rising every day, or the cycles of the tides. And that embedded sense of hope and inevitable social progress is still deeply embedded within us.

But now that core part of our self-understanding has been in large part yanked out from under us. We’ve had to learn the hard lesson that hope, and this idea of inevitable continuous progress just isn’t operational anymore.

At least, it isn’t operational in the way we’ve thought it was. In our society, we’ve always understood success as being defined strictly by the outcome. Success was achieving that goal, meeting that quota, getting the ball across the goal line. If you did that, you’ve succeeded; if not, you were a failure. And that’s precisely where this mindset collides with our faith. It isn’t that outcomes aren’t important, or that we shouldn’t hope for those good outcomes or accomplishments. It’s just that our Christian faith teaches us that, as many people have put it, what is most important is the journey, not the destination. It really is a tired cliché, but it is true. Our hope has to be grounded, first and foremost, in the idea that what’s most important in God’s eyes is how we live our lives in the moment, in every moment. That’s far more important than whether our actions achieve some large goal that we might have had in mind; there are so many variables outside our control that we might never reach those end goals.

I saw a meme on Facebook recently that got to this point pretty well. Someone asked God to tell them what their purpose in life was. Expecting some big, profound answer, God replies, “What if I told you that you fulfilled your purpose in life when you took that extra hour to talk to a kid about their life? Or when you paid for that couple’s meal in the restaurant? Or when you tied your father’s shoes for him?” Simply put, God isn’t interested in your achievements, whether what you’d lived and worked for was actually accomplished – maybe they will and maybe they won’t – but what God really cares about is your heart, and how you’re applying your heart, your faith, in whatever circumstance you’re in.

My long-time pastor and mentor, Phil Hazelton, once put it this way. Phil said that he had a dream where he met God, and God didn’t seem to recognize him. So Phil started to list off all the things he’d done in his life. “I was a Freedom Rider during the Civil Rights Movement!” God sat there puzzled, saying “No, I’m sorry, I can’t place you.” Phil continued, “Well, I marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma with Dr. King!” “Hmm, no, I still don’t recognize you.” “I hosted a classical music program on the local public radio station; I’m the Senior Pastor of a thriving, 2,000-member church!” “Look, I’m sorry, your name just still isn’t ringing a bell.” Frustrated, Phil started to run down a complete list of everything he’d done in his life, eventually even getting down to the fact that he fed squirrels in the park, when all of a sudden God’s eyes light up and he says “Oh yeah, Phil, the squirrel guy! Of course I know you; why didn’t you say so before?!”

God cares far more about how we live in all of our moments, than about whether we’re able to pull off the big things we work for in our lives, if things ultimately turned out the way we’d hoped. Understanding that truth can keep us grounded in our faith, and can keep a spirit of real, and reasonable, hope alive in our hearts.

But – and this is important – hope without action is just a delusion. Hear that again – hope without action is just a delusion. As we’re living all those moments, God very much expects our hope to spur us to action. And the specific action we’re called to – regardless of the situation, and regardless of how things play out later – is the course of love. Love in all things, in all situations, toward all people, and whether they show gratitude for it or not. It’s love that makes hope realistic – it’s what give hope legs.

And that – finally, you might be thinking – actually gets us to today’s gospel text, and to the lighting of today’s Advent candle, representing love. The coming into our world of Christ, God’s anointed one, is the perfect, crystalline moment of love throughout human history. In this gospel text, we hear about Jesus’ birth largely through the experience of Joseph – a good man who is engaged to Mary, who has suddenly become pregnant in a manner that is highly suspicious, to put it mildly. But despite his natural inclination to end the engagement, and to lose hope, Joseph acts, in that moment, in love. In spite of his concerns, he accepts the word of the angel, and he doesn’t break off his engagement with Mary.

Jesus’ birth is this single, blessed moment, in which God shows pure, absolute love for humanity, in spite of ourselves. God giving us this one whose life becomes a model of love and real hope, by being faithful and true in all the moments of his life, regardless of which way the arc of history might bend. The life of this one being born into the world and destined to suffer the ultimate failure of public humiliation and execution, is the greatest illustration that we have that what matters are the moments, what matters is the journey, not the destination. Ultimately, God will take care of the outcome, as we also see in the resurrection of this little one come into the world in Bethlehem.

God has given us the gift of love in the flesh, so we can have hope with legs. So always act with love, as a sign of gratitude and a reflection of God’s love for us. Work for progress, work for good, absolutely. But if things don’t end up the way you’d hoped, don’t despair; don’t dread. Remember that all of history, and all of our faith, is all about the moments – particularly, the moments of love.

Thanks be to God.

It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way

(sermon 21/8/19 – Second Sunday of Advent)

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Isaiah 11:1-10

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins. The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

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Matthew 3:1-12

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

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This always seemed like an odd week in Advent to me. We start off with this beautiful passage from Isaiah that we heard earlier, where he speaks so eloquently about this wonderful future time of peace, when the wolf will lie down with the lamb, and so on – and then we hear this second reading, about wild, cranky, angry John the Baptist, insulting the people standing around listening to him, calling them a “brood of vipers.” I mean, I get the idea of John’s call to repentance fitting in with the focus of Advent, but his whole attitude seems more than a bit off-putting, especially this week when our Advent litany recognizes the peace embodied in the coming of Christ. It’s like that crazed panhandler that you’re trying to avoid eye contact with while you’re stopped at the traffic signal, who’s yelling at you through the window because you won’t give them any money.

But the more I consider it, I guess I understand it. John knows this passage from Isaiah; he’s read it and heard it many times, and he knows its hopeful vision of a peaceful existence for all the world; and he knows that he’s telling people about this very same vision, this same time, except he’s telling them that it’s about to break into the world. But he looks around, and almost everything he sees is the exact opposite of that vision, and quite simply, he’s ticked. He’s angry at what he sees going on around him, and he’s calling people out for it. What he sees is an existence where sin hasn’t just tainted everything, it’s completely taken over.

At this point, I suppose it would be important to recognize just what it is that John considers that sin to be. Just what is it that a Jew in first-century Palestine would consider sin? The biblical scholar Amy-Jill Levine has pointed out that we Christians have often been misinformed, mis-taught, that the Jewish religion of Jesus’ time was all about ritual and ritualistic practices; a kind of checklist religion, over against a Christian religion that is supposedly so much different from that, when in fact Judaism then wasn’t any more ritual-based than Christianity is. She goes on to explain that the Jewish concept of sin, then, wasn’t that some set of ritualistic traditions hadn’t been adhered to – but rather, throughout the Hebrew scriptures, whenever sin is discussed, whenever it’s identified, almost without exception it refers to attitudes and especially actions that have the effect of mistreating or hurting other people. Did you hear that? Almost every single description of sin details actions that hurt other people. Actions that treat others without justice, or mercy; actions that exploit or cheat others from enjoying the same existence that a person wants for themselves. It’s a virtual constant in the Hebrew scriptures, and we see the exact same message in Jesus’ words in the gospels.

So John looks around him and sees a society that is completely under the thumb of the Roman occupation. Oh, sure, Rome has given the Jews some degree of autonomy in their local governance and their religion, but not much – they’re on a pretty tight reign. The people are paying heavy taxes to a faraway empire and have very limited freedoms. People are being treated unjustly and abusively. And any time they get even a little bit out of line, the violent power of Rome comes crushing down on them, making sure they understand who’s really in charge. And adding insult to injury, some of their own people are collaborating with Rome to impose the dictates of this occupying force, simply because they realize that if they go along with the Roman occupiers, things will go well for them, and they don’t want to upset their own relative comfort and well-being.

John sees all this – how the people, especially the poor, are being mistreated and exploited. How God’s commands for caring for the widow and orphan, the sick and poor, are being ignored. And he gets mad. He recognizes that this just isn’t the way things should be, especially now, as God has told him that this eternal peaceful kingdom is about to break into the world. Prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. You brood of vipers, you poisonous snakes, change your ways, now, before it’s too late.

And now, as we think about this future time of peace ourselves, we look around us and we see the same thing. We see a society, a culture, that in so many ways seems to have gone off the rails. Poor people – men, women, and children; young and old – who can’t find work and who don’t have enough money to eat are being kicked off of federal food assistance. People legally entering the country seeking refugee status are illegally jailed, and families are separated, often without any plan for reunification, in violation of federal law, international treaties, Christian moral teaching, and just plain common sense and decency. People of color are enduring generations of injustice, being mauled in a criminal justice system designed to destroy individuals and families in multiple ways, and to deprive them of the right to vote, and to essentially create a perfectly legal replacement to Jim Crow society and a return to near-slave era conditions. One particular religious group imposing its narrow, burdensome, discriminatory beliefs on the entire society. Innocent men, women, and children becoming victims of human sacrifice to the false god of gun proliferation. A consumer culture that brainwashes us from before we’re even out of the cradle that we should want everything that we don’t have, and more of everything we already do; and that our worth as human beings isn’t that we’re loved by God and that we’ve been created in God’s image, but instead, our worth is measured by the worth of our stuff. Government leaders who rule with impunity, with no sense of accountability or ethics, only out for their own personal gain at the expense of all of us. Thousands of people being bankrupted every year by outrageous healthcare costs charged by for-profit healthcare corporations, or even dying simply for lack of health insurance or affordable life-saving prescriptions. The resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist, with nationalist groups, the rise of neo-Nazism and neo-Fascism all despite our thoughts that it could never happen here. But it’s happening here.

If you can see all of those things and not be every bit as mad as John the Baptist, you’re just not paying attention. Just John saw what he saw, we can see and know that this isn’t the way things should be. That it doesn’t have to be this way. That we need to repent from these kinds of things in our own personal lives, to be sure, but also that there are systems at work in our society that are causing and enabling these problems in ways far worse than we could ever cause them on our own. We’re all inescapably enmeshed in these harmful, these sinful, systems. Thinking about all of those things makes John the Baptist’s calling people out as a brood of vipers sounds almost tame.

As a congregation, we’ve signed on to the Matthew 25 vision. Next month, I’ll host a three-week Bible study that focuses on Matthew’s gospel, and Matthew 25 in particular, and just what the whole Matthew 25 emphasis really means to us as a congregation, here, where the rubber meets the road. But as a bit of a preview, I can say that it has a lot to do with exactly that kind of turning away from the current ways, and turning toward God’s ways, that John was calling for in this passage. The Matthew 25 vision echoes the idea that all those things don’t have to be that way, and it calls us to taking concrete steps to try to change them.

John was so upset, so angry, because he could see that same vision that Isaiah saw and told about. It was wonderful, and beautiful, and peaceful. And while we can’t create that final, ultimate peaceful world that only Christ will finally usher in some day, having that vision in our minds is enough for us to see that the current world could be so much better, so much more just, so much more peaceful, than it is now – and that by turning our lives, and especially our social systems and structures, toward God’s paths, toward God’s standards of compassion, and mercy, and justice, we’ll be adding just that much more straw into the manger in preparation for our celebration of Jesus’ birth, and in hope of his eventual return and establishing that wonderful world that Isaiah and John  saw. So have righteous anger at what you see – but don’t stay in the anger. Let that anger become repentance, and let that repentance become action, and in that action, find hope. Hold on to that hope, because those words from Isaiah, and from John, are true; that peace, that shalom, is coming.

Thanks be to God.