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Wednesday, December 02, 2015

2 December: A river went out of Eden

In one of the several Advent devotions we are reading, the theme this week is LIFE.  Life breathed into the muddy flesh of our ancestors, life rushing and replicating through the lush biology of that primordial world, life flowing out of the garden planted eastward in Eden.  Life and paradise both lost in the human presumption to imagine that God was withholding something good for our lives which we should grab and horde for ourselves.  Life returning to the ground after that fateful choice in blood, sweat and tears, in decay.  Life in the seed, quiet, dormant, germinating, returning to revitalize all of creation, in the person of a king disguised as a baby, a wandering preacher and healer whose willing submission to death conquered it for all time.  Life wins.  The darkness cannon overcome it.

One of the images of life is the river in Genesis 2 that flows into four great branches watering the troubled intersection of the continents, from Ethiopia through Syria to Iran.  That river comes back to us in the prophecies of Ezekiel and in the last chapter of the Bible, Rev 22, where it is a stream whose waters heal the sea and restore the fish and that waters the trees that heal the nations, a cascade that widens and grows as it flows outward.  The river begins where God is present, and moves out to bring life to all.

The river image jumps out because here in West Virginia, days of rain have swollen the river that runs by us.  Drizzling, constant dampness does not seem very powerful.  But the mountains catch the run off and gather it, and where there may have been a ditch there is now a stream, a stream is a cascade, and our lazy often shallow rocky river that you could easily wade across is now a torrent.  All the boulders and rocks are submerged, and the water has come many feet up the banks.  It is flowing with power now, with purpose.  Even if it weren't 40 degrees outside I wouldn't dream of swimming in this wild water.  We stand on our porch and listen to the dull roar of that tide.  Thankfully our house is up on a rock.

Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.
He who continually goes forth weeping, 
Bearing seed for sowing,
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, 
Bringing his sheaves with him. (Psalm 126)

Could it be that the constant drizzle of tears, the seasons of weeping, the pouring out of our lives back into this broken place, are not the end of the story, but the source of the life-giving river?  Each tear is joining a rivulet, a stream, a creek, until there is an unstoppable flow of the Spirit of Life healing all the hurts and wrongs.

There is a deep mystery here, tying our suffering to the presence of God and the healing of the nations.  In this season of Advent, we weep.  We mourn for those who mourn in California tonight, for refugees who continue to ply dangerous escape routes from zones of war, for kids who are just trying to make it through papers and exams.  Tonight we wept with a loved one who feels the frustrating inevitable unfixable losses of the last few years, the isolation of being unable to communicate and understand.

Advent is not just a season to cover sorrow with tinsel and light.  The tears of this time not only make us long for the final coming of Jesus to rule over disease and mass shooters and crushing workloads and hate and fear.  Those tears are in an inexplicable way somehow watering the very life we long for.  They are gathering into a river that grows in power until nothing can stop its life-giving force.

Tonight the rain continues, but the river reminds us, Life will Win.

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