From the Gorge at Advent
Our Thanksgiving family gathering in the Columbia River Gorge concludes today. We will worship at Bethel UCC where our daughter Laura will lead the service and preach.
It would be a very different, and more exciting area, had not the Columbia River been tamed, or in author Blaine Harden’s words, “lost.” A chain of hydroelectric dams turn the Columbia into like a series of lakes or reservoirs. And, of course, the Northwest which was transformed by low-cost and abundant electricity in the post-World War II period, would be a very different as well.
When I was a kid, we marveled at the great dams and their transformative power. Part of the great narrative of progress and American ingenuity and know-how.
Today, we are less confident. The aging dams look a bit ominous. We’re more attentive to their costs: to Indian cultures and community, to salmon, to “wildness” and nature’s complex web of relationships.
It’s the first Sunday of Advent. The wonderful, strange season of that begins the Christian year. Keyed more, at least in its early weeks, to the second-coming of Christ, history’s Omega, than to the first, the birth in Bethlehem.
Advent always begins with texts from one of the apocalyptic sections of the gospels, this year, Luke’s gospel. “Apocalyptic” in common usage means disaster upon disaster and “be very afraid.” In the Bible it’s different. “Apocalyptic” means revealing or unveiling, seeing things shorn of artifice and cover-up.
There’s realism: Jesus speaks of the storms and disasters, the political turmoil and wars and “rumors of war.” But not in order to terrify or paralyze. But to say, this happens, this will happen. Don’t be overwhelmed by fear. “When you hear of these things, stand up, lift your heads.” The message is not just “be courageous” in the face of challenge and adversity, though it is that. It is stand up and lift your heads because of your ultimate faith and trust in the living God, who rules even yet, and who will prevail. We live within an horizon of hope.
For us, all time is caught up in God. As we say in the Communion liturgy, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” Past, present, future held in God’s’ mercy and grace.
A blessed Advent to you. We live in cloudy and tempestuous times, but God is faithful. So we too shall also endeavor to be faithful. Stand up, lift your heads and sing of the mercy and grace of God which abides and intrudes even in the darkest of times.
“O Come, O come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.”