A People of Promise

Jeremiah 33: 14-16; Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36

“Do you think this is the beginning of the end?” I was asked that question earlier this week upon discussions of world events, war, violence here and abroad, issues of climate, and every other issue that seems to plague our conversations and our politics. Do you think it’s the beginning of the end? Certainly if you listen to these readings now week after week they are quite ominous. They almost sound somewhat realistic to what’s going on around us and maybe even within us at times. There seems to be so much uncertainty. And, well, quite frankly, we’re not always good with uncertainty. We want to know. So is it the beginning of the end? My response was that it’s the beginning of the end of something, but I don’t know what. Nor do you know what that is and nor does anyone else. If anyone says they do, they’re lying to you. We always want to know but faith is about living in the unknown, even in the midst of what seems like the beginning of the end and some very turbulent times in our world and lives.

This season, though is about a promise, as we hear from Jeremiah today in the first reading. It’s not about a promise of the destruction of the world. It’s also not about the destruction of evil for that matter. That’s not God. That’s us and our own lack of faith and living with uncertainty and mystery. The promise of God, rather, is that of the restoration of Jerusalem. It’s about a new creation that will take shape. It’s a promise of life in the midst of the war, violence, and uncertainty. It’s a promise of a God made flesh. But where is it? It seems, and we’ve often told ourselves that it is about the destruction and the overtaking of such darkness. Yet, so often hidden in the darkness of our lives, life begins to sprout and call us to a new way of life, one that is rooted in this promise given to people Israel. Even for them it seemed as it was the beginning of the end. They often felt hopeless and helpless for that matter.

Yet, Jeremiah today reminds them of the promise that was and is made. They began to lose hope when leader after leader never met their expectations. They promised that things would change and yet, it never happened. One by one they bought into the corruption and power, leaving the people even more oppressed than before. It, of course, led to cover up and despair, greater confusion and chaos, a people looking for something to hold onto in all of it. There, in the darkness, the light begins to expose the darkness for what it is and a people are freed from the oppressors. The promise is not to destroy but to raise up life in the midst of it, a mystery revealed in the darkness of our lives, our city, and our world.

Luke, whom we will now hear from this next year, raises it to another level. It now goes beyond one another, even beyond nation against nation. We get that. It so often seems to be our way of life. Luke raises it now the cosmic level, where these great cosmic events will begin to unfold as a warning to the people that something is not right. It’s as Paul writes in another letter, that all of creation groans in labor pains. We get that too. When the promise of life is upon us, it comes at great cost and great pain. We live with the uncertainty. We want to feel secure and safe to protect that life. Yet, it’s not what Jeremiah speaks of nor what we have lulled ourselves into believing. He speaks of a God that will continue to provide for the people, even in their despair. We too quickly buy into fear, thinking we can somehow be safe and secure from all danger. If we only expel the darkness and evil to another location we will somehow be safe. That’s crazy talk! It’s also not faith. It’s not of a God who continues to reveal in the mystery of our lives and world, but rather a god created by us out of fear, perpetuating the injustice that people Israel continued to struggle with in their lives and that we struggle with this day.

It’s the beginning of the end of something but rooted in the promise of a new creation, of life. We know how it all feels and the experience of letting go and walking into the unknown. When we’ve experienced the loss of a loved one. When, all of a sudden, someone is diagnosed with a terminal disease. When relationships fail and divorce seems imminent. When people are killing other people right here on our streets of Baltimore. When we live, so often with a loss of hope that things will ever change, the promise of a new creation, of life.

As we enter into this great season of anticipation, we await the fulfillment of this promise. We await the fulfillment of the promise in our lives and in our world and in the world to come. When we begin to feel despair, we find hope in the promise. When we begin to feel engulfed with the darkness, we find hope in the promise. We are a people of promise and we don’t have to settle for anything less. When we do, we succumb to the fear of our own lives and our need for security and safety, we give into certainty, rather than falling into what this season is about, the mystery of life as it continues to unfold and call us forth to be the new creation to a people who walk in darkness.

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