Thoughts on the First Readings -Joe Frankenfield
Third Sunday in Advent
Isaiah 61: 1-2, 10-11
Late one recent evening I stopped in a local store to pick up several things I needed for a home repair. The person who waited on me was friendly and very helpful, going out of his way to make sure he understood my needs and guided me to the right items. We didn’t know one another but for the few minutes that we were together he was caring and pleasant. When he got home later he probably complained about tired feet and having to mother-hen clueless folks like me about home repair. Still, however tired and frustrated he may have been, he went out of his way to assist me and let me know that I was worth his time and energy.
Isaiah anticipated a political Messiah because the oppression his people faced was political. Jesus’ vision was also political but not in the sense of managing power to get people to do what he wanted. Jesus understood that the first step toward peace and justice was to want peace and justice for everyone including those who oppose us. If that isn’t our ultimate goal, we’ll never attain the world we long for; without that goal we can’t accept the world God offers. What does that have to do with a tired, foot-sore clerk in a hardware store?
There’s a mocking element in saying that someone views herself as a messiah. It calls to mind the image of a person who believes that she has all the answers to how the world should act and is willing to do most anything to drag others in her schemes. We generally view would-be messiahs as ludicrous, even dangerous, people. Yet the primary aim of everyone seriously claiming to be Christian is to be Christ for the world. Christ means Messiah.
The core work of Jesus was to free people from fear. He used his life to reveal that whatever their weaknesses, whatever their failures, whatever their history the Creator of the universe stands with folks – without question. Experiencing this divine commitment, each person is free to join with every other in the search for life. It is the work of all who take up Jesus’ mantel to free others from fear, not by intellectual brilliance or the force of an amazing personality but by standing with them, respecting them, loving them – without question.
We begin with the person in front of us, not with the Taliban or drug cartels or some other enemy-of-the-day. We begin with the guy looking for the thingamajig when our feet hurt too much and our day’s been too long. We show that person honest care and respect. We make ourselves one with him and his needs. Our faith promises that this will change us and change our world.