Can You See it?
Time never moves as slowly as when you are sitting in the emergency ward. Fortunately, they had been placed in one of the examination rooms which affords a little privacy. As we waited for test results, the elderly couple regaled me with the travesties that had befallen them. I was beginning to experience their emotional exhaustion. With the tale completed, a prolonged silence hung in the room. Then, as if a spark had just been ignited in her, the woman suddenly exclaimed, “You know what we need?” My mind went to a stiff drink but she said, “We need a 24 hour a day ‘good news’ new station so you could hear good news any time you wanted it.” Ain’t that the truth.
I am sure I can speak to most of us here when I say that lately the news seems so depressing. I know people who have stopped watching the news because it makes them feel so bad. Now, I’m no news junkie but I think I have a responsibility as a concerned citizen to keep informed. Yet, the more I watch this endless chaos, the suspicion that arises with the action of world leaders, the violence and turmoil, the uncertainty of it all, depresses me.
For what it is worth, here is my take on things. I believe that we are at the edge of a crisis the magnitude of which the world has never seen before. A simple reality. If we do not stop our dependency on fossil fuels, we are driving not only humanity but the entire planet into extinction. Everyone seems very clear that we need to change the way we live.
Yet, with every change there comes sacrifice and there are many who are more concerned about maintaining their standard of living now than they are about the future. As tension arise between these two camps, nothing gets done and we descend further into the depths day by day. The Report on Climate Change instituted by the US Congress, written by 10 separate environmental consulting firms, states that by the middle of this century climate change is going to cost the US billions of dollars each year. Trump calls it all lies and says it is nothing more than a political move by a Democratic controlled Congress to upsurge his power.
In making America great again, Trump has focused on the economy and, admittedly, the US economy is booming. He has reopened all the coal energy generating stations and opened up the coal mines. He has placed heavy tariffs on imports so Americans are forced to buy within their country. Jobs are being created, people are working, but how long can you sustain an economy based on fossil fuels?
I am told that I should leave poor Trump alone so let’s look at the tensions in our own country. Alberta is threatening to build more railroad oil tankers to get its oil to other markets if Ottawa doesn’t do something about getting the pipeline built. I get it. Alberta, once the richest province in the country, is now suffering economically. It no longer has the millions it had in excess of their budget. They want, once again, to be what they once were.
I certainly get that tens of thousands of jobs are at stake in this province. Yet, as we speak, rising sea levels, the result of global warming, the result of burning fossil fuels like oil, are risking Puerto Rico’s infrastructure.
This year alone we have witnessed the results of global warming in the severity of hurricanes and forest fires and tornados. The projected emissions of carbon dioxide from all the nations around the world falls short of the 2 degree Celsius goal agreed upon by the Paris Climate Accord. Let’s not even get into all the violence that is erupting because of the tensions in the world. We are see-sawing on the brink. Jobs, a healthy economy now, a dead planet tomorrow. I could use a ‘good news channel right now.
We could use some hope. But we need more than just a wishful thinking. More than an “I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow and turn all this snow into slush” kind of hope. We need a substantial hope, something we can rest our faith on. We need to have the hope Isaiah had, a hope that gave him the strength to stand up in front of a torn nation and tell them they need to start listening to God’s wisdom. This wasn’t just some prophet slapping them on the hand for being bad and sending them to their rooms until they promised to behave. Isaiah’s people were in deep trouble, having had Jerusalem destroyed, they living as exiles, living as slaves, worshipping idols, and living destructive lives.
Imagine having the strength of faith to stand in front of Trump, Putin, Bashar al-Assad, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong-un and say, “I, Isaiah, the son of Amoz, have seen a day when we shall beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks. A day will come when nations shall not rise against nation but all will come to God’s holy mountain.” Is it possible that any of them could see this hope? Or, knowing what they would have to sacrifice to attain this, they would just dismiss him as they dismiss many like him today as disillusioned radicals? Isaiah is not saying that if all the nations would just become Jewish and do as we do, everything would be okay. Isaiah is not trying to say that we Jews have it right and all the rest of you are wrong. He is saying that all the nations of the world will come to God’s holy mountain just as they are. They will come voluntarily and positively to God’s mountain, whether that God be called Allah, Yahweh, the Great Spirit, and there God will take us somewhere we can not go on our own, somewhere we can not get to by our own righteousness, but only by God’s goodness.
A place of peace. A place where there is no more “other”, no more “we” and “they”. A place where we can re-invent ourselves in the beautiful mosaic of God’s children, a place where we can redefine terms of power, authority, leadership, community. Isaiah said he could see it. Can we see it?
I can see real hope in the child of Bethlehem. I see a child, a gift to us as all children are. A child who will grow to lead us in the ways of holiness and wisdom. A child who defines true life and the beauty such a life holds. I see God laying this child on a bed of straw, vulnerable, needing our nurturing and love to survive. I see a God saying that she needs us as much as we need her. I see shepherds and Kings coming to pay him homage and I see the eternal power of God’s love giving us hope, real hope.
Can you see Christian and Muslim women all dressed in white? Can you see Hope? They are lying on their bellies near the main highway in Monrovia, Liberia where everyone could see them. It was embarrassing to President Charles Taylor. They protested until he finally agreed to attend peace talks in Ghana. When the talks faltered, these same women went to Ghana. Can you see them? Can you see Hope? They linked their arms around the government building until the talks resumed. The tragic civil war in Liberia finally came to an end. Can you see the women dancing in the streets?
Can you see the rice paddies, green and lush, stretching as far as the eye can see in Cambodia? Can you see the Hope? More than a dozen programs are ridding the country of land mines and providing survivor assistance to the Cambodian people. The number of men, women and children killed or injured each year by mines has fallen from 4,320 in 1996 to 286 in 2010. Still too many but can you see the farmers now working their fields? Can you see the Hope?
Can you see the children boycotting school in Australia to spend the day taking their concerns for the environment to the government, shouting, pleading, “We need action now?” Can you see the children carrying signs near Capitol hill, saying, “Protect the Children, Not Guns!”
Against all evidence to the contrary, these children believe that weapons can be turned into ploughshares or simply turned into the local police. This is more than wishful thinking. This is substantial hope. This is hope hung with the humanity of God. This is hope that finds its foundation in eternity, that nothing, in all of creation can destroy. This is the good news we need to hear from our “good news” station.