The end is nigh.
Daylight Saving Time subsided with a whimper, and now it’s dark at 4:30 pm. And most of us are shivering under an arctic cold front that has us in its teeth.
The liturgical year is also approaching its nadir- we’ve got two more Sundays until the start of Advent Year A.
It’s a time of stress for a lot of us as we read the news, if you are old-fashioned. More likely a lot of us feel completely bombarded hour by hour by a news cycle that seems inescapable.
And worse, even for those who identify as followers of the Way of Jesus, the consensus is just as dark. “The church is dying.” “Christendom is a dead relic.” We are told we live in a “post-Christian” world.
And well, what of it?
A friend and I were talking about religious leaders who constantly make these kinds of statements—not bemoaning the state of affairs, either, if we really examine it. Rather, it seems like they almost take a perverse pleasure in the doomsaying, almost like the impending implosion of Christianity leaves us in some kind of free fall. Emphasis, I suppose, on the “free.” But where is God in this? Have we left any room for God’s presence at all in our rush to claim obsolescence?
It’s a good thing for us that Isaiah 65’s bold proclamation grabs us by the lapels:
For I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight.
The joyful images of renewal Isaiah describes do not come without cost, without first a recession of faith and a loss of faithfulness. Isaiah 65 starts with a Dickensian admission that it really was the worst of times, and the best of times seems to be inconceivable. The first verses of that chapter detail a people who have lost their way in the darkness of their own willfulness. Yet after describing the waywardness of the people, Isaiah bursts forth with a vision of restoration so glorious that much of it is later recapitulated in the beautiful poem found in the twenty-first chapter of the Book of Revelation.
It is no coincidence that Isaiah 65 is a reading that we also hear on Easter Sunday in the lectionary. The language is immediate and filled with NOW: God proclaims “I AM creating… I am about to create!” Those who believe that God is dead
It becomes as simple as this: are we a resurrection-shaped people, or not? Is it possible for us to drop our thin veneer of cynicism to take seriously the idea that resurrection is at the very center of our faith? Isaiah 65 calls us to reclaim our faith with not just boldness but with joy. Real joy. Real hope. Real energy.
Beloveds, the world is feverishly a-thirst for the message we bear as Christians who proclaim the God who we encounter: a God who calls us to love, who calls us to proclaim a jubilee of redemption against the machinery of hopelessness that only serves the cause of the oppressor, who calls us to walk in integrity and unity in the face of division and fear. A God who calls us into partnership in this new heaven and new earth, who strengthens us to see that what can be has been here all along. We only need the faith and the will to never, ever give up.
Oh, that creation could be remade anew! What glories would our eyes behold if we were to wipe away all the imperfections that have developed in creation—often at the hand of mankind— and see again with new eyes the marvelous works of God.
The Rev. Leslie Scoopmire is a retired teacher and a priest in the Diocese of Missouri. She is priest-in-charge of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Ellisville, MO. She posts daily prayers at her blog Abiding In Hope, and collects spiritual writings and images at Poems, Psalms, and Prayers.