O Come O come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel..
This prayer is still ours as we wait for the return of Jesus. We are God’s people in exile, a broken people, at some times worshipping the true God, at other times worshipping an image of godness, self-created, a dead idol that will not confront our compromise. Walter Brueggemann writes,
“As I reflect on ministry, and especially on my ministry, I know in the hidden places that the real restraints are not in my understanding or in the receptivity of other people. Rather, the restraints come from my own unsureness about this perception… I, like most of the others, am unsure that the alternative community inclusive of the poor, hungry and grieving is really the wave of God’s future. We are indeed “like people, like priest” (Hosea 4:9). That is likely the situation of many of us in ministry, and there is no way out of it. It does make clear to us that our ministry will always be practiced through our own conflicted selves…
“We ourselves shall move in and out [of certainty, of our convictions about the nature of the kingdom of God and His body, our awareness of what God is doing] precisely because of our poor capacity to grieve the death in our own lives and so be amazed at the new futures. We are not more skilled in that than all the other children of the compromised community, and therefore we must engage in the same painful practices of becoming who we are called to be. I have come to think that there is no more succinct summary of prophetic ministry than the statement of Jesus: “Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh” (Luke 6:21), or “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt 5:4).
It strikes me that the grief that we avoid, as we face the realities of a dying world and a powerless church, is truly paralyzing. It is part of the experience of lostness, our inability to generate adequate answers or solutions for the need, and thus part of the liminality the Lord invites us into. Accept the invitation — but don’t go there alone! Grief is one of the preconditions to the newness the Lord will one day bring.