Monday, 28 November 2011

tearing open the heavens... Advent One

          Isaiah 64: 1-9 ...
 O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence— 
as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil— 
to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! 
When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. 
From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, 
no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. 
You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. 
But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed.
We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. 
We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. 
There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; 
for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity. 
Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; 
we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. 
Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, and do not remember iniquity forever. 
Now consider, we are all your people. 

The Old Testament reading for Advent 1b is a deep, passionate cry from the heart: calling on God to come, to make known his presence, to rip the heavens apart by way of announcing he is here with us.
I love the drama of it.

And yet, in the midst of heavens being rent asunder, of mountains quaking, of fire kindling into a blaze, are the words:
'when you did awesome deeds that we did not expect...'
Telling words, these.
In the cry for God to come and do awesome deeds, there is a subtle indication that even while the cry is made, we are still taken by surprise when God answers.
Is there a recognition implicit in these words that while we might cry out for mighty deeds, we are a little worried that they may actually happen?
Alternatively, that we are not in the least of the mind-set that they actually will...and that our invocations are made quite blithely?
I'm reminded of the Narnia books and the talk of Aslan who is 'not a tame lion, you know.'
In our worship, in word and sign and symbol, is there a strange parallel occuring?
On the one hand, saying words and performing actions that indicate that we are followers of one who indeed can rend the heavens....
On the other, oddly domesticating our rituals, organising worship in such a way that it resembles a rather dull business meeting, and in the process attempting to de-claw the wild, unpredictable, awesome God who we call upon... and who will rather upset the apple-cart by doing all that decidedly messy awesome-type stuff.
Friend Fran tells a fab. story of the making of the movie 'The Greatest Story Ever Told' -
John Wayne, at the scene of the crucifixion delivers his line: 'Truly this man was the son of God.' 
The director stops and asks Wayne if he could perhaps say it with a little more awe.  Wayne nods, the cameras roll, and he utters the memorable line:
'Aww, truly this man was the son of God.'
In our worship to God, in our expectations of God, are we more 'awww' than awe, I wonder? 
And how might we recapture the latter this Advent, through this coming church year, and throughout the rest of our lives?

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