Posted by: abbiewatters | December 4, 2011

Expecting the Word – Advent Two – Sunday

My Advent series this year will follow the Words Matter Advent study from the National Council of Churches. Download the whole booklet if you’d like, and follow along with the writings for each day. I’d love to discuss them with you. Also, here is a link to the Advent readings from the Inclusive Bible. I prefer the more inclusive language here, than the NRSV texts used in the study booklet (be sure to read the note on page 6).

Isaiah 40:1-11

The author of the study today puts her finger exactly on some of my angst. The vengeful, destroying, punishing God of the Old Testament is so different from the loving, gracious, forgiving God of the New Testament.

We are New Testament people, we say, confidently, but so many of us (including me) would look for punishment and sins when disaster strikes, whether it is personal disaster or communal disaster. “What have we done wrong?” we ask. “Do I deserve this?” And then I stop and think, “Of course I deserve this! The only wonder, from a justice standpoint is, why isn’t the disaster even worse?” I consider all the hateful words I’ve said or thought; all the times I’ve passed by on the other side of the road rather than get my hands dirty helping someone else; all the mean, petty acts of spiteful ego. I’m thankful that any disaster that has fallen to me has been mitigated by others’ kindnesses.

Several years ago, my brother called to tell me he had multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. And a couple of months after that, my brother-in-law called to say he had liver cancer. They were both relatively young men in their 40s, married with half-grown children, elders in their respective Presbyterian Churches, upstanding citizens, and all the other good adjectives we could apply to them. My brother was treated and is cured 13 years later; my brother-in-law was treated and died that year. Countless people prayed for both of them. To our human eyes there was NO REASON for one to live and one to die. But G-d had a reason.

I still don’t know the answer to this dichotomy. I only know that G-d is in control of everything that happens, and I hope that one day I will be able to ask why. Chances are the things that are important to me aren’t really important in the great scheme of things. “Now we see through a glass darkly…”

All I really know is that G-d has a plan, and it’s none of my business why things work out the way they do. Not having to be responsible for the ultimate outcome of anything is very peaceful for me.

 

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