When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, then were we like those who dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy. Then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad indeed. Restore our fortunes, O Lord. We lived this on Wednesday night at the Community Meal. We had not been serving food for more than 15 minutes, and I had been approached (as had Charlie and Larry) about the meal we were providing. I would have never dreamed that somebody would do this for the homeless. A few shared their stories. Some were down on their luck; others had never had any luck. But each was amazed that we would ever serve a feast like that and, better still, give them choices. You know what they say, Father, beggars cannot be choosy. And, of course, a number of individuals asked us why we continued to do this. You guys have been serving this since I have been coming here. Why do you keep doing it?
In a way, we are like the psalmist from our reading this weekend. You and I know what it is to be burdened by guilt, to be chained by sin, to be a prisoner of our jailing. Better still, you and I each know what it means to have been restored, to have been freed, to have been loved! You and I can look back on the work of Christ, on the terrible cost to Him, on the love that He had for each of us and realize what has been accomplished on our behalf. And we can dare to dream! We can dream of what an eternal life in the presence of God will be like. We can dream about that wonderful wedding feast to which He calls each and every one of us. We can dare to claim the Creator of heaven and earth as our Heavenly Father, our abba, our daddy. And we can proclaim what He has done for us. We can laugh. We can shout for joy. Even at the grave we can make our alleluias because we know the wonderful things He has done for us and the many more promises that He will keep. We can celebrate because our fortunes have been restored. We are like those who dream.
Yet, Advent reminds us that we live in the time between, that time between the already and the not yet. We look back on His first advent with joyful wonder and look forward to His return with expectation. Yes, Christ has come and fulfilled God’s plan for salvation, but He must come again to restore all things as they were meant to be. And so we are called to live in that time where there is still sowing with tears, where things are not as they were meant to be.
We do not expect this world to be perfect. Indeed, we understand that this world is far from what God intended. Diseases strike our bodies, sudden death grasps us, relationships fail, jobs are lost, bullies assault us, spouses abuse us, children fail to listen to their parents, economic systems dissolve before our eyes, homes are lost, dignity is often attacked, and, like our Lord and Savior, we weep.
But we follow in His footsteps. We, His disciples, know that we serve the Lord. We know that He keeps His promises. So in the face of life’s vicissitudes, we travel faithfully. We carry on with our roles in salvation history, and we endure the race He has given us to run. Though our budgets might be stretched, we dig a bit deeper for His sake. Though our time is often overspent, we find a bit more time for Him. Though the world testifies that He has lost; we find ourselves clinging ever more stubbornly to our faith in the One who was anointed by God and given the power over life and death. And we go out sowing with tears; we go out weeping, carrying the seed. Yet, the Lord promises that one day, all those who carry on in His name in faith will one day weep with songs of joy and one day come in again with joy, shouldering our sheaves.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, for a few minutes the kingdom of heaven broke into Davenport Iowa this past Wednesday. For just a brief time, the forgotten, the marginalized, the tearful and the lost were reminded that they can dare to dream. For a time, we were His body, buying His food, preparing His feast, and serving abundance in His Name. We were His voice bringing comfort to those most in need. We were His disciples, teaching others what a servant life is truly like. We were His witnesses, testifying to a crowd too familiar with death and sadness that He has freed us from all our chains and bondage. We were His light, shining in that dark place of human existence. For a brief moment in history, those whom society has forgotten were reminded that their Lord and Savior loves them dearly, that He has not forgotten them, and that they can dare to dream because He has offered to redeem them as well!