In the midst of the resettlement of Jerusalem following a long exile, conflicts arise among people who stayed in the land, foreigners who moved in, and those who return. Who has—or hasn’t—remembered and honored God? Whose fault is it that things are so difficult?
The words of lament from today’s passage are a sputtering, frustrated, angry accusation that God is at fault (Isa. 64:5); that God has “delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.” The argument goes this way: because God “hid,” the people seem incapable of doing what is right; failure to do right incurs suffering. God is to blame!
We depend upon God’s grace for help to do what is right, but the argument breaks down after that. God’s grace is always at work—even when we are unaware of it. Therefore, we cannot blame God’s absence for our failures to love, to serve, to do what is right. Spiritual giants from Saint John of the Cross to Mother Teresa have experienced a sense of God’s absence. But their witness testifies that even in that painful experience they persevered in prayer and service. Those who have traveled through a “dark night of the soul” look back and see God’s presence inviting them into a more profound faith.
Sometimes we may need to hurl our accusations and anger at God to get those feelings out of our system. The Bible gives us permission to do just that! The Bible also reminds us that we are in the hands of a God who as Father loves us and as potter always labors to form us into our most faithful, loving shape.
Potter God, even when I can’t feel your presence, help me trust that I am held in the palm of your hand. Amen.
Advent begins not on a note of joy but of despair. Humankind has realized that people cannot save themselves; apart from God’s intervention, we are totally lost. The prayer of Advent is that Christ will soon come again to rule over God’s creation. The passages from Isaiah 64 and Psalm 80 express the longing of faithful people for God to break into their isolation and to shatter the gridlock of human sin. The New Testament texts anticipate with both awe and thanksgiving the coming of “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
• Read Isaiah 64:1-9. When have you found yourself in a disorienting setting? What was your cry to God? What response to your lament did you seek?
• Read Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19. What in you needs the restoration that only God can give?
• Read 1 Corinthians 1:3-9. How might you become a means of reconciliation in your family, your work setting, your city?
• Read Mark 13:24-37. What especially do you long for this Advent-Christmas? How can you participate in the transforming love of Christ to manifest a reconciling spirit?
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