By: Rosemary Winslow
Readings: Zechariah 8:1-17, Matthew 8:14-17, 28-34, Psalm 42
Psalm 42 is a prayer-song of longing to return from exile: “I long for you as a deer longs for a stream of cool water … I thirst for you … Here in exile my heart is breaking and so I turn my thoughts to Him … I will put my hope in God.” But it is God Himself who has overwhelmed the psalmist! “He has sent waves of sorrow over my soul, chaos roars at me like a flood.” It is God Himself, the psalmist declares, who has given us turbulence in order that we turn to Him. We need water, we long for water, but as a refreshing, harmoniously flowing stream—not a flood.
Exile is a state of consciousness. So is the flood, and the desert. So is the refreshing stream. When I first encountered N Street Village, I was struck with its prominent moniker—Oasis in the Urban Desert. Out of deep love for the people, God promised , through the prophet Zechariah, to return them home from exile: they will plow, plant, and harvest. They are required to “speak the truth, give real justice in the courts — the kind that brings peace — and refrain from lying about others. “ The return from exile is the Oasis, and it is made in the heart and mouth. As the heart breaks, it opens to God and to others. The Oasis blooms there, here, wherever hearts find God in the depths and then open in the world.
The great fourteenth century mystic Julian of Norwich wrote that the rise is grace, and the fall is also grace. My own experience also tells me this is so, and what a difference it has made to understand the down times this way. What takes us down opens us to the way back up. In our longing for Christic peace, love, and joy we are cautioned over and over in the Book to prepare ourselves. Advent is a time to prepare our hearts to be broken open and refreshed by the cool stream that is coming, that is always here waiting for us to uncover it.