Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

The New Commonwealth of God

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

The New Commonwealth of God

Article excerpt

A PROFOUND SENSE of expectation launches a new year. As the season of Advent com- mences the Christian year, just weeks before the turn of the calendar year, familiar biblical stories invite us to begin again by glimpsing the coming reign of God. Weekly worshippers and annual attendees gather for the season premiere of the greatest story ever told. A prom- ise. A vision. A hope. Great expectation.

The ancient prophet, psalm, gospel, and epistle together extend to the contemporary preacher words of unflinching hope that emerge fresh from the rubble of turmoil, trial, and tribulation of every God-seeking generation. Today's words of hope must also descend like the savory aroma of a holiday meal, promising solace to the harmed, heartbroken, and hindered.

Familiarity with the Advent and Christmas narratives may leave us unaware of the radical expectation and potential impact that reciting these events can bring. These readings offer an arresting narrative of divine presence inaugurating an unprecedented commonwealth from among the divided nation. The vision makes no sense if it does not offer an alternative to the existing promises of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." The narrative challenges us to understand that our celebration of the birth of Jesus is not shiny lights or a musical presentation. It anticipates the arrival of goodness signaling an end to corruption and gloom. This global holiday extends the drama nar- rated in Christian scripture as each generation must wrestle again with the contemporary relevance of the birth of Jesus.

[DECEMBER 1]

Do You See What I See?

Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44

"MANY PEOPLES shall come," says Isaiah. The pronouncement circulates in a time of terror, injustice, and oppression. The pro- nouncement is the gathering of people from the north and from the south; from divided empires and fractured communities. In the yet-to-be-established future, all eyes will earnestly turn toward Mount Zion, which represents more than a plot of land in a cer- tain geographical location. In that day, all nations will begin their pilgrimage to wor- ship Israel's God.

The psalmist affirms the longing of humanity to journey to the place where the power and presence of God is known to show up. Israel (like everybody else) must make her way to the house of God to be taught the ways of God. Beyond the pilgrimage remains a task. At the place of the thrones set up for judgment, the psalmist calls for the people to pray for prosperity and peace.

Paul's letter to the Romans confirms the described destiny, perceiving that God- not the people-settles divisions among nations, brings an end to warfare, estab- lishes peace. With this hope, the people of God become the answer to their own prayers, laying aside works of darkness and practicing peace.

Matthew's gospel undermines the portrayal of what nonetheless has been elaborated into a dispensational end-time description. More than refraining from a specific date for his return, Jesus shifts the discussion in a way that settles for us his humanity. The humility of the incarnation includes not knowing all that God knows. Such uncertainty requires the ability to see with the vision of faith-hope in a divine promise. The question we are left with is not when will Christ return, but how shall we live under the influence of the Spirit? This passage continues the confident expectation of the coming of Christ.

[DECEMBER 8]

We Have This Hope

Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72:1-7,18-19; Romans 15:4-13; Matthew 3:1-12

THESE READINGS DESCRIBE the work of a people expectant and confident of the king's arrival. The prophet weaves a tap- estry revealing the interdependence of all life-nature, politics, society, as well as the common existence of humans and animals-the sacred and secular merge as the place where unity signals that God is with us. Hospitality replaces hostility as the prey lies down with the predator. …

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