This week's reading - Isaiah 40:1-11
I've only seen the desert of the western United States. In college, I took a trip to the national parks. I remember my first sight of the Rocky mountains, they just seemed to appear on the road. They seemed so close also - and in between me and the mountains were all of these odd looking dots that I was told were brush. Turns out the mountains were a good eight hours away with miles and miles of desert between us. And on the other side was more brush, more desert.
If we read this text to say that the great Rocky mountains are to be made low, the lowlands lifted up and the path made straight, what would we say then? Would we have an inkling of how something that impossible could ever happen. I'll be honest, the idea is so unrealistic that it seems silly.
And yet the prophet speaks hope to this silly idea. He seems delusional. And John the Baptist in the Mark text doesn't seem any more sane. The task is too big. The cynicism too grand. The bitterness beyond repair.
The more sober among us understand that our mountains are too big. The terrain is too dry. The workers too few. The vision is unrealistic. Justice in not attainable this side of heaven.
And yet the call to justice remains - prepare a way in the desert. Repent, the kingdom of God is at hand.
Now? Now is when we must heed this call to prepare a way. Now, in the current political climate? There is no way our government can level the playing field and work together.
Now? The kingdom of God is at hand now? There is no way the kingdom of God is at hand in the middle east right now. There is no way through that. Not now. And probably not ever.
Now? The kingdom of God is hand now? Have you seen the bitterness in our families? Have you seen the level of deep seeded animosity?
And can we really believe that making a way, working on justice will ever really do anything to those who rely on food stamps? The system is too large. The desert too wide to ever make the tumultuous life of poverty smoothed out in any way.
The market is too unstable. Those in power abuse it and those without will remain without it. The systems of our world do not make for a good home for the kingdom of God. If we plant the kingdom of God, I'm not sure it will grow here.
But that's the thing, the kingdom of God has already been planted. If we don't it growing, we can do something about it. It's planted in us, the people of God. It's on us to figure out how to grow life in the desert. It's on us to tend to the seeds and the plants even if they are odd looking brush that goes on for miles. It's on us to pull out the roots that are keeping other roots from growing. It's on us to clear out the rocks and care tenderly for the life that we see.
It's on us to push aside the cynicism and despair, the hopelessness and apathy to make way for the kingdom of God here in the desert.
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