Systems: A Salvation That Rescues
Dear Kaleid Ladies,
It is almost time for us to sink back into the waiting time…to join Mary and Elizabeth and Zechariah in the dark mystery of waiting for God’s light to dawn. It is almost time for the promise of the Light of the World, the Word Made Flesh who moves into our neighborhood, to grip our imaginations once again with hope and longing. Advent is just around the corner.
Does it seem to you that Christmas decorations have gone up earlier than usual? There are already restaurants garland, and homes with lights twinkling. Do we, for some reason, need the Light and the Word even more desperately this year?
Perhaps we do. Perhaps we are all weary of a tenuous, deep, beyond-our-control sense of bad news. Perhaps we are all seeking the clarity of a star that will lead us back to a manger where we can kneel again before the strong, vulnerable love of Jesus.
Perhaps we know that we need to follow Jesus more simply and more truly right now; and perhaps we know that to do so, we must begin at the beginning, one more time. Thank God for the mercy of Advent.
Luke 1 is long. Eighty verses take us from angel visit to angel visit, from Magnificat to prophecy, from intimate cousin-chatter to public dumbness and speech. An entire season of a television show could certainly be written from these 80 verses. The chapter closes with Zechariah’s prophecy, which is a grand declaration that salvation is arriving in Israel: “Bless the Lord God of Israel because he has come to help and has delivered his people.” (v. 68, CEB)
We invite you into a few verses of his prophecy. As you read verses 72-79, ask two things. First, what kind of rescue did Zachariah foretell? Second, what kind of salvation is he prophesying?
He has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and remembered his holy covenant,
the solemn pledge he made to our ancestor Abraham.
He has granted that we would be rescued
from the power of our enemies
so that we could serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness in God’s eyes,
for as long as we live.
You, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way.
You will tell his people how to be saved
through the forgiveness of their sins.
Because of our God’s deep compassion,
the dawn from heaven will break upon us,
to give light to those who are sitting in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide us on the path of peace.”
What stood out to you?
There is something here that invites us back to Seeing Our City, specifically to interacting with the forces of oppressive systems. Did you see it too?
By the power of the Holy Spirit, Zechariah proclaims that Israel will be rescued from her enemies: real ones, military ones, oppressive, human systemic ones. This has been the hope of Israel from the days of Egypt and Babylon and now Rome. Good news! “He has granted that we will be rescued from the power of our enemies.”
Then, Zechariah proclaims that salvation for Israel will come in a very particular way. “You will tell his people how to be saved through the forgiveness of their sins.”
What? Which type of salvation is it? Is it rescue from earthly, oppressive systems or from hidden, heart-bound sin?
We contend it is both. Here, spiritual salvation is not usurping physical rescue. The two are tied together. Forgiveness of people’s sins is deeply connected to a world free from oppressive systems like the one dominating Israel.
It is only as deeply loved, forgiven people, bathed in God’s grace that we can confront, withstand, and overcome the forces of darkness, evil, and death that are rampant in the world—not just in hearts, but in systems. It is only in the power of his love and his belovedness that Jesus can enter broken religious and political systems and overcome their death with his self-giving life.
At Kaleid we want to see our city through new lenses so that we can love well. New sight often brings disruption. We may ask, “How did this happen?” and “What can I do?” As we follow Jesus, we are called to remember what Zechariah (and the Holy Spirit) told us: the path of peace becomes clear as people are forgiven from sin and empowered to love in the vulnerable, strong way of Jesus. As forgiven people, we can boldly and lovingly follow Jesus all the way into the systems, even the ones that have done untold harm for generations.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
We need Advent, ladies. We need the soul-memory of love’s great rescue to be re-kindled so that we can compassionately walk together on the path of peace, even in wearying times.
May the gift of Zechariah’s prophecy be with you today as you go.
The Kaleid Team
P.S. Sign up for the Advent Contemplative Circle, which will meet viz zoom on Wednesday mornings or Thursday noon for five weeks, starting the week of 11/26! We will spend time together with the practice of Visio Divina, where we prayerfully invite the Holy Spirit to speak to us through the Scriptures and through art as we anticipate the coming of Jesus, word made flesh, at Christmas. If you’ve never done our contemplative prayer before, we welcome you and promise it will be gentle! Feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions about it!