‘O that you would tear open the heavens and come down..’
..writes the prophet Isaiah, so exasperated by the actions of the people. For God has seemed to have been hidden from our eyes and so, we have fallen into immoral and gross behaviour – because we thought no one was watching!
So the plea from the Prophet’s lips is for the world to see again the hidden One; God revealed in his righteous anger; tearing open the heavens and imposing upon us his judgement and rule.
But hear this God – writes Isaiah: you are our Father, we are the work of your hands. We are what you have allowed us to become while unsupervised, so be merciful, be gentle and do not remember our wrongdoing for ever – though we know we were doing wrong.
Much of our theology in the Old and New Testaments reflect a top down imposition of God’s rule which of course in our world reflects the practice we see in society and how things are accomplished by the rule of fear! Monarchy by divine right, Government even by election, Dictatorship by imposition. All potentially and eventually heavy handed regimes – the traits and characteristics of which we often feel inclined to put upon God – that he is close at hand and watching everything we do – the Nanny Deity waiting to catch us out and then punish us.
In this season of Advent there is a parallel expectation that not only are we preparing for the celebration of the coming of Christ in the gentle Child of Bethlehem, we are also looking for the dramatic and almost violent resolution to the chaos of our world, and see that resolved only through the end times – the coming of Christ, not as a child, but as a King; not hidden or subtle, but revealed and direct; not gentle Jesus meek and mild, but Oh My God – what have we done!
It seems we cannot live with an understanding of God which doesn’t have revealed at its heart vengeance and violence – with us being the naughty child in relationship to the punishing parent.
Isaiah reflects that without the Father being known or perceived to be close by – we’ll wander and stray like lost sheep into ways which are not becoming of the Children of God – St Mark suggests in the Gospel that without the Master being present we will simply sleep or fail in our duty.
In light of Isaiah and our Gospel perhaps we might just consider two things.
First that God fullest revelation of himself happens in discreet, even hidden places. God in Jesus is less top down management, and more of a groundswell movement amongst us, and for us whispering into our ears the purpose of his kingdom.
Before you know it, we will celebrate that the child of Bethlehem walks the same ground that we walk as he observes humanity. But the Son of Man’s authority was revealed in his triumph over the grave and not in a violent struggle.
Allowing humanity to wreak violence upon the body of Jesus’ he allowed us to be ourselves! Yet from the depth of the grave it was the power of his love which conquered death transforming our present and future.
The murder of George Floyd in the United States of America, hidden initially from most of us has shown us a similar stirring from the grave as something powerful in this generation has begun to be realised and spoken about from the ground up.
In St Mark’s words, it is as if many of us we have been asleep, ignorant, naive or at worst thought no one was watching when George Floyd was murdered or when our Black sisters and brothers and others in our society are treated in a particularly discriminatory way because of the colour of their skin or where they might have historically come from.
So the trumpet has sounded and we are awake, perhaps too late for some, and uncomfortably so for others – but awake and open to see how God is calling to us to in this season of Advent to repent, confess and be reconciled to each other as part of the same Kingdom and purpose.
In our Advent Course meeting on Zoom each Wednesday evening at 7pm we will hear a more truthful account of the past so that in the present we can see those barriers clearly which prevent some from living life in its fullest measure, and which limit the flourishing of another because of the colour of their skin – and then we can dismantle those oppressive barriers in church and society stone by stone.
God in this generation is building his Kingdom from the ground up astonishingly through you and me… and this is the revelation of God’s purpose – not that he sweeps in on a cloud and sorts out our mess, but that he calls us to repentance, preparation and action and sort it out ourselves asking for his help to build his Kingdom.
Stay awake and do you bit, God is working his purpose out… and it starts for this community with us. This advent we look again and see something different, an uncomfortable truth which will liberate us as God’s people, all of us: I pray.