Decisions in the Valley

In our Wednesday Bible study we’ve been looking at the lectionary texts for Advent.  This Wednesday we will read aloud and think about the readings appointed for The Fourth Sunday of Advent including passages from The Book of the prophet Micah and The Gospel According to Luke, a pericope where two unlikely God-bearers, one way past the biological stage of motherhood and the other unmarried and untouched, celebrate miraculous pregnancies. By the end of the reading from Luke Mary the mother of god (Theotokos) breaks out in song:  “My soul magnifies the Lord… he has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly!”  Magnificent Magnificat.

Last week, by way of studying the texts for the first three Sundays of Advent our bible study had collectively landed on one word: Revolution.   God knows we need one!  Not a call to arms but a call to sing.  We also talked about another word, Joy, and how the joy that enervates worship is not the joy of success but the joy of longing.  Longing for a new day, a new way. We ended the class by singing Wade in the Water (I tried to upload a happy 14 second video but couldn’t…  I guess you had to be there).

Today I read a chilling article written by Andrew Bacevich: Beyond Isis: The Folly of World War IV: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-bacevich/beyond-isis_b_8708726.html  The article is worth reading and brings up what for me has become the central question of Advent 2015: how can we get to that place where, according to the prophet Micah, “He [a savior] shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore…” Micah 4.3..?

In times of war, as attested in Holy Scripture, the hope of Micah and Mary is sometimes reversed and the conversion of weapons into agricultural tools (by the faithful) is overturned: “Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weakling say, ‘I am a warrior.'” Joel 3.10.

“Let the weakling say, I am a warrior…”  The irony of the bible is always telling.  A few verses later the prophet Joel tells us: “Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision!   …For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.”

Bacevich concludes his article by saying that World War IV is an invitation to collective suicide: “Arguing that no alternative exists to open-ended war represents not hard-nosed realism, but the abdication of statecraft.  Yet here’s the ultimate irony: even without the name, the United States has already embarked upon something akin to a world war…  for a rich and powerful nation to conclude that it has no choice but to engage in quasi-permanent armed conflict in the far reaches of the planet represents the height of folly. Power confers choice…”

As we prepare to celebrate the consummation of Advent we prepare for what the Hebrew prophets called “The Day of the Lord.”  Christianity celebrates the “Day of the Lord” in two (or more) senses, the first with the birth of Jesus and the second with the return of Christ, or the second coming, when God comes to judge the living and the dead.  No matter what we call the day we long for, a choice is demanded.  What choice are we, young or old, pregnant to make?

Happy Monday,

Jim+

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