“What the World Needs Now”
First Sunday of Advent
December 1, 2013
First Christian Church
As most of you know, “Roger and Me” was a 1989 documentary by Flint native Michael Moore. Moore chronicles life in town that was dominated by one industry, the auto industry, and one company, General Motors. The 80s were not kind to Flint as external and internal forces led to layoffs and economic hardship. A number of Flint natives are not so crazy about the film because of the reputation it placed on the city, as a bleak post-industrial landscape. would tend to agree, the Flint of 1989 was not as bad as the film suggested. The problem is that Moore was about 20 years early. The Flint of 2014 is as bad and even worse.
In the last few decades since Roger and Me, the auto industry has continued to contract. General Motors ended up closing a number of plants, taking a number of job and plunging the city into economic tailspin.
The Flint that I drive through these days isn’t like the Flint I knew in the 1970s. That Flint was prosperous and busy with nice homes and kids playing in the streets. The Flint of the 2010s is poor with abandoned homes and neighborhoods, empty slabs where factories once stood, and empty buildings where stores used to be. My heart breaks a little when I see the city of my birth doing so poorly. Everyone knows that the best days of the city are behind it and there is uncertainty that the future will be better. Flint is very much like its big brother an hour to the south, Detroit. Both towns benefited from the auto industry, but with the good days behind them, they wonder if there is any hope left for a restoriation.
During Advent, we will be focusing on several passages from the book of Isaiah. This book was written during some interesting ties in the life of the Israelites. The nation is not what it once was; it has divided into two and started worshipping other gods. Assyria and Babylon, two powerful nations, were jockeying for control of the region where Israel resides. The best days for the Israelites are behind them. The future looks dim and uncertain. Hope seemed to be a distant memory.
And then we Isaiah enters the pictures. Right off the bat, we have an interesting choice of words, in that Isaiah saw words? Could it be that Isaiah had a vision? Whatever it was, Isaiah encountered God and was able to pull back on the curtain seeing what God was up to.
Isaiah saw that one day, the nations of the world come to God’s mountain wanting to learn God’s ways. This small nation, in the midst of two powerful nations, would become the beacon to the world, pointing the way to Zion, point the way to God. The nations would come and learn God’s ways, instruments of war would become farm implements and war will become a thing of the past.
This passage is a passage of hope and of waiting. The hope is that what bad times the people are facing won’t last forever. The waiting comes because this hope is something that will happen, but it hasn’t happened yet. Salvation was on the way, but it wasn’t going to arrive for a while, maybe even beyond their lifetimes.
Advent is a time of waiting. We wait for Jesus to be born, which we know will happen and has happened. But Advent is also waiting for the time when God’s kingdom will be in full bloom. We don’t know when that will happen and it may well not happen in our lifetimes. But that future hope is not out of reach to us. We can experience a bit of that future hope in our lives right now. We live knowing that God will bring healing and fullness to all of creation and we try to model that future hope in our lives, in our daily work and in and through our faith communities.
As Christians, we are to live as if that future hope is here already. We need to seek and help others come and learn God’s ways. Because we can hope, because we can see that what we see is not the final word, we can work to help people see a fortaste of the kingdom that is to come.
When I was a kid growing up in Flint, there was something I saw at church that always puzzled me. It’s common in the African American tradition to hear people calling each other, Brother so-and-so or Sister so-and-so. I never understood that as kid. In most cases, none of these people were related, so why were they doing this?
It wasn’t until college that I learned that the reason people did that is because in the outside world most African Americans weren’t treated with much respect. Sometimes they would be called by their first name or they might use more derogatory names. But in church they were viewed differently. Here, they were treated with respect and given a name that provided pride instead of shame. The church was treating its members as if the era of racial segregation had been overthrown. The titles were a future hope that was being practiced in the hear and now.
Jesus is coming. Hope is on the way. Live like it’s already here. Thanks be to God. Amen.