Reflection 120620 (Advent 2: Peace)
Mark 1:1-8/ Isaiah 40:1-11/ Psalm 85
Righteousness and Peace Will Kiss
I don’t have any children, so I don’t understand the relationship dynamic between children and parents, or children and grandparents. But I learned from my mother that, since sometimes parents have to scold and discipline the children, the grandparents’ role is to provide tenderness. When children are scolded by a parent and start crying, it’s the grandmother’s role to give them a hug and comfort them. About two years ago, I became godmother to two beautiful children adopted by my best friends, who are a gay couple. Since our children have two dads, we decided that the godmother should become their mother; that is why they call me Mama. During my second visit to them, daddy had to scold them, and they ran to me crying. That’s when I realized that I was basically their grandmother! Children need both tenderness and discipline, and the balance between the two is crucial for healthy child development.
Today, we start with Isaiah chapter 40. The Israelites had their land taken and were in exile. They couldn’t understand why God had seemingly abandoned them. Isaiah and the other prophets were the representatives of God, and through the prophets, God did two different things: rebuking them for their failure to be faithful to God, and giving them the message of hope and comfort. Basically, God is acting like both the parent and grandparent. The beginning of chapter 40 is a message of comfort after the punishment. God disciplines God’s children for their sins, but also “feeds his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.” (40:11) In preparation for God’s coming, the prophet preaches, “In the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord.” (40:3) The followers of John the Baptist thought maybe he was the one they had been waiting for, but he understood his calling to be the one preparing the way for the messiah.
As we read in Mark chapter 1, the way John prepared for God’s Chosen One is by offering the baptism for the forgiveness of sin. Like in any human relationship, since Israel’s relationship with God had been broken due to their unfaithfulness, to restore the relationship, there has to be repentance and forgiveness. They had to purify their hearts and souls before receiving God’s representative in the person of Jesus. This process is similar to cleaning the house and dressing neatly when we are expecting visitors. To receive God’s representative, God’s people must purify their hearts with repentance.
Today is the second Sunday in Advent, and the theme is peace. The peace in God’s realm is not the same as the peace of which we speak in our daily lives. Because God values justice and equality above all else, God’s peace cannot exist without just relationships in the communities. Being a Methodist, I have learned that there is no personal holiness without social holiness, which is the core Methodist belief. No matter how much we pray, attend worship, and give to charity, and so on, if we do not care about the injustice that causes suffering to our marginalized neighbours, God will not acknowledge our piety. As there cannot be personal holiness without social holiness, there cannot be true peace without just relationships that we call social justice. As God’s people, we cannot enjoy true peace until all God’s people know peace. As long as some of God’s people suffer, we will not know true peace.
When I think of the peace in God’s kingdom, I remember Psalm 85. This psalm is a prayer for peace and illustrates what God’s ideas on peace is. Listen to verse 10 and 11; “Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.”
As we reflect on peace during Advent, while waiting for the baby who grew up to live and die for God’s reign of love and justice, let us start by listening to John the Baptist’s message of preparing our hearts with repentance. Repentance is about restoring the brokenness in our relationship with God. This week, I invite you to prepare the way of the Lord by purifying your hearts. Let us get closer to God and receive strength and guidance. Let us think of all God’s people and not ignore their suffering. Let us spend the rest of Advent improving our relationship with God; with prayer times, scripture readings, and participating in charity projects to help God’s people. Let us endeavour to know God’s peace by bringing peace and justice to all God’s people.
Prayer of Advent Peace
God, whose name is Peace, help us to be filled with peace and work to bring peace to all your people during this season. Amen.
Rev Sunny Kim