Monday, January 12, 2015

God's Trumpet: A Shock to the System

1 Thessalonians 4.17  We... will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.

Pearl Harbor was attacked early on the first Sunday of December 1941.  Many parishioners remember the event, and the rest of us have seen it on film.  So when Paul imagines a trumpet call from heaven, the dead climbing from graves, and believers rising to the clouds, his vision of glory mixes with our memories of sirens wailing, enemy bombers clouding the blue morning sky, soldiers fallen, and fighter planes taking off from cratered runways.

Yet, in Scripture, isn't every call from God an alarm, a shock to the system, and the death of "life as usual?"  God called Israel to a land of milk and honey, but to reach it, Israel's people uprooted their lives, endured wilderness, warred, and erred.  A hymn reminds us that the apostles were "contented fishermen" until they followed Jesus far from home to martyrdom.  Following God's call, Paul himself suffered confrontation, ridicule, deprivation, torture, and execution.

Yet again, is there any agony in Scripture that does not also begin a process of redemption?  The crucifix embodies that notion.

This is not to say that every cloud has a silver lining.  It's distasteful to speak of "silver linings" in war, earthquake, disease, or unemployment.  It is rather to say that redemption has a cost:  Pearl Harbor roused the United States out of isolation to assume leadership against totalitarian regimes, at the high cost of blood and treasure.

So, in this season of down comforters, of gathering friends, family, and food, our Church reminds us that our faith has never been about sticking to what we have, where we are, and who we've always been.  Are we contented?  Then we must listen for God's call and must not, as Father Wallace Marsh once told us, "rationalize" ourselves out of heeding it.  Are we anxious?  Then we can take strength from the promise of redemption embedded in our faith. 

[This essay first appeared as the reading for the first Saturday of December, 2010, in a devotional booklet published by St. James' Episcopal Church, Marietta, GAFind links to many more of my reflections on the Episcopal church, scripture, and on others' perspectives of the same topics at my page Those Crazy Episcopalians!]

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