December 2nd by The Rev. Julie Allen Berger
Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God
was coming and he answered, The Kingdom of God is not coming
with things that can be observed, nor will they say “Look, here it
is,” or “There it is.” For in fact, the Kingdom of God is among you.
Part of human nature is wanting to have control, to understand why difficult things happen. Under umbrellas at a shuttle stop years ago — when it had rained for days without ceasing — I was idly chatting with a fellow staff member at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. She told me in no uncertain terms that we had flooding because God was angry at “all the casinos.” She took to heart the story of Noah’s ark and God’s displeasure at human sin.
Three tragically died last month at Central Performing and Visual Arts academy in the neighborhood close to our home. We struggle with how this could have happened. We feel and hear the despair of those who wonder if our nation has reached its lowest point. Amidst gun violence, environmental upheaval, racism, and political impasse, are these the “end times” which precede God’s once again needing to wipe our sinful slate clean?
Jesus’ response to the religious right of his day, when they sought to pinpoint God’s timetable, is enigmatic. You cannot know for certain how and when God acts, Jesus said. How frustrating these words must have been for the Pharisees. How difficult they are for us!
While it is crucial to seek the causes of violence and address them, Jesus’ words point me to the reality that not all evil/not all tragedy makes sense, at least this side of heaven. Jesus’ words call me to look for how God might be speaking to me through the actions of neighbors seeking healing and constructive change. The realm of God is already here, Jesus says. How can I become a part of God’s redeeming work and avoid the trap of passive blame? That is my prayer this Advent as I ponder the gift of Jesus.