Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Embracing Restoration

Embracing Restoration
Micah 5:2-5a; Luke 1:39-55[1]
After all my “confessions” this Advent season, some of you may be convinced that I am a cross between Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch! You may have wondered, “Is there anything about Christmas he does like?” Well, you’re in for a treat today, because that’s exactly what I want to talk about—what I do like about the way we celebrate Christmas. The one aspect of how we as a people “celebrate Christmas” that I like is the fact that we make it a time for family. We scheme with our families how to surprise other family members with just the right presents. We gather with families around the table and the Christmas tree. We worship with our families at the altars of our churches. It is a time for reunion and reconciliation, for embracing and entertaining, for sharing and supporting one another.
I guess I have to add another “confession”—I haven’t always enjoyed this dimension of Christmas. Truth be told, it’s one of the parts of the way we “celebrate Christmas” that many people dread! For many people, Christmas becomes a time when you have to endure your relatives, whether you want to or not. It becomes a time of fighting and re-opening old wounds, a time for throwing discretion to the wind and behaving in ways that are embarrassing and offensive—toward the members of our own family! Christmas is a time when the gaping holes in the fabric of our “family ties” become painfully apparent. It is a time when we desperately need restoration and healing in those most basic human relationships.
Advent is a time when we focus our attention on God’s work in this broken world. It is a time of waiting in silence, a time of looking for the salvation that God has promised, and a time of singing for joy over God’s presence among us. I think it’s tragic that in the midst of all this Gospel talk, many people in our society find themselves more depressed than at any other time of the year. I would venture to say that one of the main reasons for that is that it is a time when we become painfully aware how broken this world is—particularly our own families.
One of the themes in the lessons for this Fourth Sunday of Advent is that it is a time to celebrate the work of restoration God is carrying out in the human family—the whole human family. Take the lesson from Micah. At first glance, one might think that the prophet Micah was no different from many of his contemporaries. In virtually the same breath that he speaks about the coming of the Prince of Peace who will restore and reunite the people, it seems that he looks forward to the domination and oppression of their enemies! And yet, the prophet Micah may very well be an exception to the pattern of looking for restoration for Israel in terms of punishment for their enemies.[2] Like Isaiah, the future Micah envisions is one of “beating swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks” (Mic. 4:1-4). And in our lesson for today, that restoration includes the reunion of the divided Jewish family. Think of it—Micah looked forward to the coming one who would heal the bitter enmity between Judah and the tribes of Israel and bring them together in one family for the first time in 200 years!
We think of reunions as happy and joyful, but the reality is that sometimes they are, and sometimes they aren’t. In Mary’s Magnificat, we hear that one of the ways God’s work of restoration would come about is through the “Great Reversal”: the proud humbled, the powerful pulled down from their thrones, those who are stuffed will go away empty-handed, while those who are disempowered will be lifted up and those who are hungry will be filled with good things (Luke 1:51-53). [3] Mary describes the overturning of the current system of consumption and oppression and violence by the norms of God’s kingdom: mercy, justice, and love.[4] I think many of us saw a little of that in action yesterday as we distributed food to needy families.
There’s just no way to avoid the fact that there is a barb in the good news that God is working to restore the human family. That barb is this—those among us who flourish on the backs of others, those who get rich by the poverty of the many, those who wield power through violence of any kind will be impoverished, overthrown, and overturned.[5] And yet, even here there is good news—the restoration that God promises is one in which some of us will suffer loss, but in the end we will all gain immeasurably more than we lose. The future Micah and Mary looked forward to is a vision of the restoration of the whole human family. They saw in the birth of the coming one the establishment of the justice that makes it possible for all people to thrive, to reach their God-given potential, to experience the joy and the vibrancy that God intends for all creation.
Advent is a time for waiting in anticipation. It is a time of looking for the fulfillment that promised salvation, and a time of singing for joy over God’s presence in our midst. It is also a time to embrace the restoration and healing God has promised to the whole human family in our families. Tread lightly this year, instead of taking up the challenge to engage in bickering. Do whatever you need to show a little extra consideration to your family—after all, we’re all stressed out during this time of the year. And after all we’ve been doing, many of us are frankly exhausted. Try to say the kind word, do the kind thing; extend your arms to the one who aggravates you and embrace the restoration that God is bringing to us all! Now that’s the way to celebrate Christmas!

[1] © 2009 Alan Brehm. A sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Alan Brehm on 12/20/09 at First Presbyterian Church, Dickinson, TX and at A Community of the Servant-Savior Presbyterian Church, Houston, TX.
[2] Randall J. Pannell, in “The Politics of the Messiah,” Perspectives in Religious Studies (1988): 131-143 argues that it’s possible that Micah actually contrasts the Prince of Peace who will bring restoration to the people with the way in which Israel would seek it’s own restoration—through violent means. For a broader look at the issue in Hebrew Scripture, see Hans Walter Wolff, “Swords into Ploughshares: Misuse of a Word of Prophecy?,” Currents in Theology and Mission 12 (June, 1985): 133-147. He states plainly (p. 137), “Biblical faith decisively rejects all that has to do with war.”
[3] Cf. the article by my friend and fellow seminarian Ruth Ann Foster, “Mary’s Hymn of Praise in Luke 1:46-55,” Review and Expositor 100 (2003):451-463. She says (p. 458), “Mary acknowledges God's mercy and love for the lowly and a radical reversal of normal human values in the coming messianic kingdom.”
[4] Cf. Hans Küng, The Christian Challenge: A Shortened Version of On Being A Christian, 89: in the light of the Kingdom of God, “all existing systems, all ordinances, institutions, structures and indeed all differences between the mighty and the powerless, between rich and poor, appear from the very beginning to be relatively unimportant: the norms of this kingdom must be applied even now.”
[5] Cf. Foster, “Mary’s Hymn,” 458: “even though Mary has been often ‘regarded as the comforter of the disturbed .. . she [or at least her song] is far more accurately the disturber of the comfortable’” (quoting Doris Donnelly). Cf. similarly Letty M. Russell, “God’s Great Reversal,” The Christian Century (Nov. 20, 1991): 1089. She says, “God's great reversal may come too close to home as we hear that Christmas is about lifting up the ‘lowly,’ filling ‘the hungry with good things’ and ‘sending the rich away empty.’ Yet it is by joining in the their desire and work for deliverance that we find out the meaning of the good news of great joy.”

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Singing For Joy

Singing For Joy
Zeph 3:14-20; Isa 12:2-6; Phil 4:4-7[1]
I must confess that I approach this sermon with some degree of “fear and trembling.” With all my “confessions” about how I’m not a big fan of the way we “celebrate Christmas,” I’m afraid that one more might get me tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail! After all, who doesn’t like Christmas?!? But then, of course, I do have my tongue firmly implanted in my cheek with all these “confessions.” So I’ll risk just one more “confession”—I’m not a big fan of the whole decorating thing at Christmas.
You know the routine: you climb into the attic or rummage through the garage to find all those dusty boxes you packed away last January. And since it’s been a while since you packed them away, you have to really rummage around to find them all—which means you get covered in dust and cobwebs. Then there’s the fear—the nagging fear that you may have misplaced Grandpa’s antique Christmas tree ornaments with the colored water that bubbles or Great-Grandma’s hand-made Christmas stockings. Once you find everything, then you have to go through all the lights to find the one bulb that’s keeping the whole string from not lighting. Then you have to climb up and down the ladder to get them hung on your house. Of course, you have to make at least 2 trips to the local hardware store to replace missing items. And when you finish, you stand back to admire your work and notice that once again this year your neighbor has managed to outdo you!
Then you move indoors to—the tree. And of course, once again this year you have to revisit the debate about a live tree versus a fake one. And then there’s the debate about size—five feet, seven feet, or nine feet. And then you have to search through your (still mostly dusty) boxes to find all the tree ornaments that didn’t get lost or broken last year. And when you’re done, you stand back to admire your work, and you notice out of the corner of your eye—yep, you got it: once again this year your neighbor has a taller, fuller, more handsomely decorated tree in the middle of the huge picture window right out front. So yeah, I’m not a big fan of the whole decorating thing at Christmas. Now, again, I realize that for many of you decorating is one of things you like best about Christmastime. There’s just something about all the color and the light of decorations that brings a little happiness to us all! But there is a difference between happiness and joy. I know, it’s become a cliché to say it, but I think it may be a useful cliché. Happiness lasts as long as whatever it is that makes you happy lasts. Maybe a little longer, but not indefinitely. Joy, on the other hand, is something that lasts no matter what the circumstances may be.[2]
I’ve already made it clear that I am a big fan of Advent. One of the things I like about Advent is that it’s the season of joy. As I’ve already said, it is a time for waiting in stillness, and it is a time of looking for the fulfillment of the promised salvation. But it’s also a time of “singing for joy”! The prophets looked forward to the day of the Lord’s coming as a time of great joy. Yes, many of them, like Zephaniah, also envisioned it as a time of widespread devastation and judgment. But even Zephaniah, who has been called the “gloomiest” of the prophets, did not give devastation and judgment the last word.[3] Even Zephaniah kept the last word for joy—joy over the Lord’s presence, joy over renewal and restoration, joy over coming home (Zeph. 3:14-20).[4] That’s one of the things I love about the message of the prophet Isaiah. While Isaiah does have some “gloom and doom,” as a whole he looks forward to the Lord’s advent as a time for joyfully shouting, “Surely God is my salvation” (Isa. 12:2)! Isaiah looks forward to the Lord’s coming as a day when the people would drink their fill of salvation like someone drawing fresh water from a well. It would be a day of great rejoicing.
I think it was this very hope that made it possible for the Apostle Paul to write the words we heard from his letter to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4). If you knew something of Paul’s circumstances when he wrote that letter, you would probably be surprised that he could express such joy. To say that he was not in a place that you would think conducive to happiness would be an understatement. At best, he was confined under house arrest. I’m not sure we’re capable of imagining what the worst case may have been for someone like him sitting in a Roman jail.[5] And yet, St. Paul could say, “Rejoice!” You may wonder what he had to rejoice about in that situation. Well, he tells us—he rejoiced over the assurance that “the Lord is near.” I think there’s a dual meaning in that: Paul rejoiced because he looked forward to the Lord’s coming, but he also rejoiced because the Lord is always “near.” [6] And I think Paul had experienced the Lord’s constant presence in his imprisonment. And so he could say, “Rejoice!” I think in a very real sense, the Apostle Paul carried the joy of Advent with him wherever he went—even in a Roman jail.
Advent is the season of joy. It is a time for waiting in anticipation. It is a time of looking for the coming of the Lord, for the fulfillment of God’s promised restoration, for the peace that overcomes all violence and the love that makes all our hatreds evaporate like the morning mist. You might think that focusing our attention on what we long for but do not yet have might be a cause for discouragement rather than joy. But in my opinion it is that very act of watching and waiting and looking for the coming of God that inspires great joy. It inspires us to “Shout aloud and sing for joy, … for great in your midst is the Holy One” (Isa. 12:6).

[1] © 2009 Alan Brehm. A sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Alan Brehm on 12/13/09 at First Presbyterian Church, Dickinson, TX and at A Community of the Servant-Savior Presbyterian Church, Houston, TX.
[2] Barbara Brown Taylor, “Surprised by Joy,” The Living Pulpit (Oct-Dec 1995):17. She says it is in the “wilderness, in that empty-handed I-give-up surrender that joy is most likely to occur.”
[3] Joanna M. Adams, “Toward Home,” The Christian Century (Dec 12, 2006): 18.
[4] Taylor, 17, says, “Joy happens when God is present and people know it.”
[5] Cf. L. Gregory Bloomquist, “Subverted by Joy: Suffering and Joy in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians,” Interpretation 61 (July, 2007):274-75.
[6] Cf. Huston Smith, “Reasons for Joy,” The Christian Century (Oct. 4, 2005):10-11. He says, “As Kierkegaard noted, if at every moment both present and future I were certain that nothing has happened or can ever happen that would separate me from the infinite love of the Infinite, that would be clearest reason there is for joy.”

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Merton on the Illusion of Pride

Merton warns against the selfish pride that tends to imagine we can only be fully human by "asserting [our] own desires and ambitions and appetites." Those who take this path to "find themselves" thing the only way to achieve it is to build "a barrier of contrast and distinction between themselves and [others]." Their pride manifests itself in thinking, "I have what you have not. I am what you are not. ... Therefore you suffer and I am happy, ... you are nothing and I am something, and I am all the more something because you are nothing."

Merton observes that this tendency is most dangerous when it becomes spiritual pride--thinking that my good deeds constitute a "sweet distinction" in me "from the common run of sinners in this world." Merton describes it as "the complacency of a will that loves its own excellence," to "burn with self-admiration" and think it is one's love for God, to relish "acts that make [us] admirable in [our] own eyes" and think our satisfaction is "the unction of the Holy Spirit." In short, Merton says such a person "thinks his own pride is the Holy Ghost"!

It seems that the antidote for this temptation may lie in Merton's observation that "I must look for my identity, somehow, not only in God but in [others]. I will never be able to find myself if I isolate myself from the rest of [humankind] as if I were a different kind of being." New Seeds of Contemplation, 47-51.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Looking For Salvation

Looking for Salvation
Mal. 3:1-4; Lk. 1:68-79; 3:1-6[1]
I believe I mentioned last week that I’m not a big fan of the way we “celebrate Christmas.” One of the things I dislike about it is “the search.” You know, the search for the right present—just the right present. I know, I know—that’s what many of you like the most about Christmas. But I have another confession to make—I’m not a big fan of shopping. (I wonder if all these confessions are going to cause a scandal!) I cannot tell a lie—I don’t like having to go looking for something—especially in a store! I do my looking in the comfort of my home on my laptop over the internet. I compare prices, find what seems to be the best price, and then I buy it. So I’m not a big fan of the whole shopping thing at Christmas.
But, as you may have guessed, I am a big fan of Advent. I love the whole package of Advent—songs of longing, lighting candles, sprigs of greenery here and there. I especially like Advent because it is a time for reminding ourselves that we live by promises—which means we live by faith and hope. In a very real sense, then, Advent is a time for—well, for looking![2] I know, I know—it’s incredibly ironic. One of the things I dislike most about the Christmas season is looking for presents, but one of the things I like most about Advent is looking for the fulfillment of God’s promises. I would like to make at least a feeble attempt to argue that looking for redemption is a whole different thing from looking for presents. (I hope you noticed that I did use the word feeble!)
Zechariah was a man who was looking for the fulfillment of God’s promise. He lived his life in faith and hope—faith in the promises made to the ancestors and hope that God would be faithful to fulfill them. And when his son was born and his tongue was loosed, Zechariah sang a song of praise to God for fulfilling those promises. The specific way in which Zachariah saw this promise fulfilled was in the birth of his son John as a messenger to “prepare the way for the Lord.”
Now I dare say that when we think of John the Baptist, we probably don’t think of promises of salvation. In the lesson from Malachi, we see a similar promise, but from the way it’s worded it would seem that it is not really a promise but a warning. The Lord’s messenger will come as a refiner’s fire and as a launderer’s soap to purge the people and make them pure. It is an image of judgment that one wouldn’t really be looking for.
But in Zechariah’s song there is a different emphasis— in the birth of John the Baptist, Zechariah saw the fulfillment of God’s promise to redeem Israel.[3] In a very real sense, Zechariah was looking forward to redemption, mercy, salvation, and forgiveness. In Zechariah’s song, the messenger of the coming Lord will bring “knowledge of salvation … by the forgiveness of their sins” (Lk. 1:77). The messenger will effect “the dawn from on high” through the “tender mercy of our God” that will bring light to those who are in darkness as well as “straightening their feet” into the way of peace (Lk. 1:78-79).
Now if you’re confused, don’t feel bad. We don’t normally think of judgment in connection with salvation. Usually those two concepts are seen as diametrically opposed. So how is it that the messenger who will prepare the way for the Lord is a messenger of judgment and a messenger of salvation? Well, I think we have to remember that God’s judgment was always intended to lead to salvation.[4] And so Zechariah sees the birth of his son John as the messenger who will “prepare the way for the Lord” in terms of the promise that the Lord’s coming will set things right. While that does imply a sense of purification and correction, the ultimate goal is to create peace and freedom for “all the families of the earth” and ultimately for all creation. Zechariah was looking for the fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation.
The season of Advent is a time for looking—a time of looking for the salvation promised long ago. But I would remind you that “looking” is something that requires your full attention. Looking is the active part of waiting. During Advent, we look forward in hope to the day when “all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Lk. 3:6).[5] We look for the promise that “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together” (Isaiah 40:5).[6] We look for God to fulfill the hope that “The valley of the shadow of death will be filled; it will be lifted up. The mountains of struggle, pain and poverty will be made low.”[7] Advent is a time for living in faith and hope, like Zechariah—faith in the promises of salvation made long ago and hope that God will be faithful to fulfill them. It is the season for looking!

[1] © 2009 Alan Brehm. A sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Alan Brehm on 12/6/09 at First Presbyterian Church, Dickinson, TX and at A Community of the Servant-Savior Presbyterian Church, Houston, TX.
[2] Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer: He says that our faith is about “a dramatic affirmation that there is light on the other side of darkness,” which puts us in the mode of looking.
[3] Luke calls the promise “the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham” (Lk. 1:73). As you may remember, that oath included blessing all the families of the earth (cf. Gen. 12:3).
[4] Cf. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics 4.4:56: The “righteousness” that John the Baptist preached was what Karl Barth called God’s “rectifying and hence redeeming righteousness.” He adds that the voice the one crying in the wilderness “is the voice of a messenger of salvation rather than catastrophe.”
[5] Cf. Isa. 11:10; 52:10; see Jürgen Moltmann, The Church in the Power of the Spirit, 77, 80, 83, 86, 93, 100, 135. Cf. Barth, Dogmatics 4.1:31.
[6] Walter Brueggemann, “Expository Article: Luke 3:1-4,” Interpretation 30 (Oct 1976): 409. He says, “The glory finally to be shown is not some religious epiphany. It is the power of liberation, born by this poor man turned loose in history.”
[7] Elizabeth Myer Boulton, “Living By the Word,” The Christian Century (Dec. 1, 2009):21
Merton on Seeking God

Another jewel from Merton: to "seek God perfectly" means, among other things, "to rest in humility and to find peace in withdrawal from conflict and competition with [others]; to turn aside from controversy and put away heavy loads of judgment and censorship and criticism and the whole burden of opinions I have no obligation to carry" and "to gather all that I am, and have all that I can possibly suffer or do or be, and abandon them all to God in the resignation of a perfect love and blind faith and pure trust in God, to do his will." New Seeds of Contemplation, 46.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Thomas Merton on "Salvation": "To Live in God"

In New Seeds of Contemplation, p. 37-38, Merton contrasts the "vapid" and "hackneyed" concept of salvation that is so prevalent with "the beautiful Christian metaphor." He says that "salvation" means to "be full of [God's] actuality and find Him everywhere in myself." When that happens, Merton says, "I shall be lost in Him," but what that really means is that "I shall find myself." That is what it means to be "saved."

He contrasts this with being immersed "in the common, the nondescript, the trivial, the sordid, the evanescent."

He summarizes: "To be 'lost' is to be left to the arbitrariness and pretenses of the contingent ego, the smoke-self that must inevitably vanish. To be 'saved' is to return to one's inviolate and eternal reality and to live in God."

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Lift Up Your Heads

Lift Up Your Heads
Jer. 33:14-16; Lk. 21:25-36[1]
I have a confession to make—I’m not a big fan of Christmas. You could say that I’m something of a cross between Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch. Well, almost—I wouldn’t steal Christmas from anybody, and many of you know that I can’t turn away anyone I believe to be truly needy. But I am pretty cynical about Christmas. Or at least the way we as a culture "celebrate Christmas." Kristi likes to tell the story of my first Christmas with her family. Now, in order to appreciate it, you have to understand that in Kristi’s family Christmas wish lists are serious business! But that had not been my experience. So when I made my first list for Kristi’s family, I came up with three items—three. And come Christmas day, much to my surprise, I got all three of them! That also had not been my experience! Needless to say, my Christmas lists in recent years have grown.
So while I do enjoy the whole family gift-giving at Christmas much more than I ever did, I remain fairly cynical about the way we as a culture “celebrate Christmas.” On average, we as a people have spent $900 per person on Christmas gifts over the last ten years. Now, that’s the average—and when you factor in people like you and me who spend more like $50 to $100 per person, it boggles the mind what some people spend! Even though economists estimate that the average this year will probably be about half that, we’re still talking about spending, as a people, over $150 billion—just on Christmas presents. All totaled, we will spend about as much “celebrating Christmas” as we will give to all charities all year long. That includes charities that fund “artistic” endeavors as well as those that help people with their basic needs. So I’m somewhat cynical about the way we “celebrate Christmas.”
Having confessed that, I hasten to add that I’m not cynical about the message of Christmas. It is the message of God’s unconditional love for all people. It is the hope that God’s reign will set things right and create peace and freedom for all creation. It is the good news that, “When we least expect it, and when there is no evidence for it, God's power comes into this godless world in ways the world itself could never predict or foresee.”[2] It is the promise that “I will wipe away every tear,” and “they will beat their swords into ploughshares,” and “I am making the whole of creation new.” The message of Christmas is something I passionately believe.
Ironically, I think that part of the reason why we seem to be so oblivious to the message of Christmas is because it’s not the language of doubt and cynicism, to which we are so accustomed, but the language of promise and hope. I think the message of Christmas gets lost to us because Biblical faith is a faith that is very much defined by promise.[3] Take the words of the prophet Jeremiah: in the face of a siege by the unstoppable Babylonian army, Jeremiah obeys God’s command to buy a piece of land as a tangible reminder that God would bring the people back and restore their fortunes (Jeremiah 32:43-45). And so “just when the future appeared darkest,” Jeremiah spoke in the name of Lord: “the days are surely coming when I will fulfill the promise I made to Israel.”[4] It was a promise of “a future of justice, freedom, reconciliation and wholeness.”[5] And the people of Jeremiah’s day didn’t get that message any more than the people of our day get it. But make no mistake—the message of Christmas is a promise—the promise of a future of justice, freedom, reconciliation and wholeness.
I think one of the things we don’t like about all that is that it requires watchfulness, as Luke reminds us. Or perhaps a better word for it would be “waiting.” Like it or not, “waiting” is the essence of our faith: “we wait for what God has promised: new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will be at home” (2 Peter 3:13-14, TEV). You simply cannot take away the dimension of promise from the Christian faith. And that means you cannot take away the element of waiting.
But waiting for a promise to be fulfilled is not an easy task. Traditionally, the season of Advent is a time of waiting in stillness, being silent in the darkness as we await the coming of the light. But we don’t like waiting in stillness—it is uncomfortable. We want to fill the silence with chatter, or at least clear a throat. We fidget and shuffle papers—anything not to have to wait in stillness and silence. And yet there is a reason for the waiting; the stillness serves a purpose. It serves to focus our hopes on the heart of our faith—that God is in the process of creating for us all a future of justice, freedom, reconciliation and wholeness. And the stillness of Advent serves to prepare us for the real celebration of Christmas—not packages and parties, but the good news that in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, whom we call Christ and Savior and Lord, God began the process of fulfilling that promise.[6]
So I think observing the season of Advent—before we “celebrate Christmas”—may be one of the most important ways we can bear witness to our faith.[7] I think it is perhaps more important than ever, in the midst of all that we do to “celebrate Christmas,” that we observe Advent in a way that is consistent with the hope that God is in the process of creating a future for us all that consists of justice, freedom, reconciliation and wholeness. During this time of year it is the case that, as it is the rest of the year, we bear the most powerful witness to our faith and hope with what we do.[8] So I would encourage you to find ways to create room in your life for stillness—as uncomfortable as that may be—and to let the stillness move you to “lift up your heads, for your redemption draws near!”

[1] © 2009 Alan Brehm. A sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Alan Brehm on 11/29/09 at First Presbyterian Church, Dickinson, TX and at A Community of the Servant-Savior Presbyterian Church, Houston, TX.
[2] James F. Kay, “Redemption Draws Near,” The Christian Century (Nov. 12, 1997): 1033. He continues, “If the future were not the promise of Jesus Christ but the predictable outcome of present trends, despair would overwhelm us. No trend points to the permanence of what we call heaven and earth. If trends predict anything, it is that death and dissolution bring an end to every human heart and hope.”
[3] Jürgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope, 20: “Hope is nothing else than the expectation of those things which faith has believed to have been truly promised by God” (quoting John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.2.42 ); cf. also 16, 30-32, 40-44, 85-89, 102-54, 190-229.
[4] William Dyrness, “In Distress,” The Christian Century (Nov. 16, 1994): 1073. He adds, “Often in scripture the promises of God come in the most difficult circumstances, as if God intends that we not live by the certainties we see and know.”
[5] John C. Morris, “Anticipation,” The Christian Century (Nov. 22, 2000):1214.
[6] Jürgen Moltmann, The Way of Jesus Christ, 26-27, 28, 30, 32-33.
[7] Joanna M. Adams, “Light the Candles,” The Christian Century (Nov. 28, 2006): 18: Advent is a time for “holding on for dear life to the reassurance that God intends to make the world right again.”
[8] Cf. Leonardo Boff, Passion of Christ, Passion of the World; quoted in Living Pulpit (Oct-Dec 1997): 38: “The reign of God, the eschatological liberation of the world, is already in process …. It takes shape in concrete modifications of actual life.”