I wrote this nine years ago, so some of the topical references may be dated, some of the links broken and abandoned. Oddly, it sill seems to me to connect to the present situation; perhaps more so than in 2011.
But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed. We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.Not the "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" description of sin we are used to. This is not a God who pushed the sinners away because they were unclean; they became unclean, says Isaiah, because God pushed them away. It's a curious thing about the descriptions of God in the Hebrew Scriptures: it's almost always a description of a relationship, rather than of a judgmental almost-unmoved Mover who responds only to failure. God's anger, says Isaiah, caused Israel to sin; God's absence caused Israel to do wrong. Why don't we think of God that way? Where did we get this Christian idea that God only exists to judge us, and we are only saved from judgment because of Jesus? And our only relationship to God is to stand before God in judgment, a judgment which is hidden from us until the end of time? It's an odd thing; we Christians insist God is "Father," but we then treat God like an absent, quasi-abusive, almost adoptive, father. We ask for things from God. What we don't look for is a relationship with God; except as God is going to make us happier and happier. Which means: what? Well, consider the psalm, too:
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh. Stir up your might, and come to save us! Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved. O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people's prayers? You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure. You make us the scorn of our neighbors; our enemies laugh among themselves. Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved. But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, the one whom you made strong for yourself. Then we will never turn back from you; give us life, and we will call on your name. Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.This is a plea. But it's not a plea for a new job, or a good bargain on Black Friday, or even better weather or a mended economy. It's a plea for relationship. It's a plea for God to come and join us and restore us and return to us. God's return would mend Israel. God's return would restore Israel. God's relationship with Israel is what matters most to Israel.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind--just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you--so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.The adventus always seems to speak in apocalyptic tones: fire burning wood and mighty warriors coming to save the people. Always a final proof, a final redemption, an end to suffering and doubt. Paul instead speaks of grace and peace that come from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. "Our Father." Do grace and peace come from our Father? Do they come from God? Or do comfort and benefits and all the good things we value more and more and more in this American life? What would grace and peace be? Where would we sell them in the marketplace? Or are they not commodities, gifts given to us, but the results of a relationship, of knowing God as Father? In every way, says Paul, we are enriched in Christ Jesus: in speech and knowledge; and we are not lacking in any spiritual gift as we wait for the advent, the revealing of Christ as Lord. What do we do with these enrichments, with these gifts? Do we even recognize them?