Last Things and the Thing to Come

You know what? We have never been home yet, to full justice, to full peace, full righteousness, full neighbor-love, full self-love, full trust and obedience. Never there even now. Advent is pondering what it would be like to end our common exile and come home. -Walter Brueggemann

Implicit in the season of Advent, is waiting for what is to come. Yes, Jesus was born in Bethlehem to a teenage peasant twenty centuries ago. If you were there you’d find him, wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. Yes, there were those who saw angelic visions and dreamed dreams of wonder, at who this child would become. Yes, just like in a musical, people and angels broke out in song.

But when we celebrate Advent, we do more than just remember that. We hope.

We dare hope that that one time, God came in the flesh and entered into the suffering of the world, was not a one time thing. We hope that God in Christ, will return and then we will taste in fulness the meaning of God’s salvation for us. That peace will reign on the earth. That:

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. (Isaiah 11:6-9)

Advent hope falls under a category of theology called ‘eschatology,’ the study of last things. In the evangelicalism I grew up in, we loved eschatology. The Bible camp I went to as a child, gave me a detailed chart of the book of Revelation describing the rapture, the beast, and the time of tribulation. It was fanciful and most of the things I was taught, I’ve come to reject as an adequate reading of ancient apocalyptic literature. Sorry, Kirk Cameron.

See the source image
Dispensationalist Eschatological Chart

But while mapping the Anti-Christ is no longer my eschatology, I still have one. I still believe that there is a hope that the story is moving toward. That the coming reign of Christ will bring about God’s justice, God’s peace, and fulfill God’s hope for the cosmos. With Walter Brueggemann and the prophet Isaiah I dare hope that there will be a day that no one will hurt or destroy on [God’s] holy mountain. And that we will come home to full justice, full peace, full righteousness, full neighbor-love, full self-love, full trust and obedience.

In The Coming of God, theologian Jurgen Moltmann, argues against a ‘end of all things’ idea of eschatology which envisions the end as ‘final solution’ to all that ails the world:

Christian eschatology has nothing to do with apocalyptic final solutions ofthis kind, for its subject is not the end’ at all. On the contrary, what it is about is the new creation of all things. Christian eschatology is the remembered hope of the raising of the crucified Christ, so it talks about beginning afresh in the deadly end.

Jurgen Moltmann. The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology (Kindle Locations 82-83). Kindle Edition.

I believe Jesus came. I believe Jesus comes to us. I believe Jesus is coming again. And when he does, we aren’t at the end. It is the beginning of the life we are meant to have. In the mean time we live toward that day.

Help Me Be: a book review

Dale Fredrickson is a teaching pastor and spoken-word artist at St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Highlands Ranch, CO. Both as pastor and as poet, he is charged with the ministry of word-care (or Word-care).  In his new book of poetry, Help Me Be: Praying in PoemsFredrickson uses his words to ignite our hunger for God amidst difficulty, suffering and brokenness.

Help-Me-Be-Cover-1010x1024The organization of these poems is lifted from Walter Brueggemann’s Message of the Psalms (it’s okay, Brueggemann wrote the forward). There are poems of Orientation (Or, Life is Good), Disorientation (Or, Life is Not Good), and New Orientation (Or, Life is Good Again).  However, I felt like ‘new orientation’ breaks into the poems of ‘disorientation’ a little too much. Fredrickson writes poems to give us a sense of the Divine Presence doesn’t press into the darkness as much as he could.

I enjoyed these poems. It is a short book (48 pages) and Fredrickson offers poetic prayers reminiscent of Brueggemann’s Awed to Heaven (Rooted in Earth), Inscribing the Text  or Prayers for a Privileged People. Fredrickson lacks some of the prophetic edge of Brueggemann but there is a lyrical quality to his poems. Among his poetic influences are Wendell Berry, Shel Silverstein and Mary Oliver.

These poems should be read aloud. Fredrickson is a spoken-word artist and I found I appreciated these poems more when I let the words play on my tongue.

I read these with an eye toward their possible liturgical use.  Many of these poems do not avail themselves to a ‘responsive reading’ as the poetic voice is singular. I still think they would add to a worship service, particularly with the right reader. I would give this about four stars.

Help Me Be is available for purchase through Amazon.

I recieved this book from SpeakEasy in exchange for my honest review.

Fourth Week of Lent: A prayer from Walter Brueggemann

The following prayer is excerpted from Prayers for a Privileged People by Walter Brueggemann (11-2). Though the prayer is not liturgically located, it dovetails nicely with my recent reflections on sin posted here and therefore seemed apt to me as we continue our journey Calvary bound.

Perfectly Love

We pray as often as we meet,
that we might “perfectly love you.”
Indeed, we have been commanded from the beginning,
to love you with all our hearts and
all our souls and
all our minds and
all our strength.

We have pledged to love,
pledged in our prayers and in our baptism,
in our confirmation and with our best resolve.

But we confess . . .
we love you imperfectly;
we love you with a divded heart,
with a thousand other loves
that are more compelling
with reservation and qualification,
and passion withheld and
devotion impaired.

We do not now come to pretend before you,
but to confess that we do not,
as we are,
love you perfectly;
we do not keep your commands;
we do not order our lives by your purpose;
we do not tilt toward you as our deepest affection.

But we would . . .
we would love you more perfectly,
by the taste of bread become your flesh,
by the swallow of wime become your blood,
by the praise of our lips and beyond our usual reasoning,
by the commandments that are not burden but joy to us,
by embracing your passion for neighbors,
by your ways of justice and peace and mercy,
by honoring the world you have made
and all creatures great and small,
by self-care that knows you as our creator.

Lead us past our shabby compromises
and our cheap devotion;
lead us into singleness of vision
and purity of heart,
that we may will one thing,
and answer back in love to your great love to us.

Free us from idolatries
and out habits of recalcitrance
tender our hearts,
gentle our lips,
open our hands,
that we may turn toward you fully
toward your world unguardedly.

Let us bask in your freedom
to be fully your, and
so trusting fully our own.
We pray through the Lord Jesus who loved you
singularly, perfectly, fully—to the end.