Restoration; an impossible dream?

This morning, in three different readings – from three different historical moments in the life of God’s people, we are offered the promise of the restoration of something that has been lost.  The eyes of the blind shall be opened – the ears of the deaf unstopped, says Isaiah, dreaming about the “terrible recompense” of the God – our God – who comes to save us.  The Psalmist offers similar hope – though in the form of a hymn of praise to God “who executes justice for the oppressed [and] gives food to the hungry.”  Then Mark brings Jesus back from his visit to foreign territory to the home of a deaf man, whose friends beg Jesus to “lay his hand on him.”

Now, restoration may not be on your minds this week – I expect that refugees and politics and improbable solutions to seemingly impossible problems are on your minds.  The news of the week has certainly been focused on the plight of those who are so determined to leave the hell that their own country has become, they willingly take grave chances with their safety.  They travel the open ocean on rafts; they submit themselves to unscrupulous mariners whose only goal is profit.  They abandon all they know and love because the unknown is a better risk – though a risk that is still quite capable of killing them – and the horrifying thing is that this is not a new habit; we have seen this play dozens of times – the country of origin may be different, but the results are always the same.

So if I push you to think about restoration you may decide it means “put everyone back where they belong…” or perhaps “just stop all this ridiculous fighting…”  Maybe you’d prefer more military action to ‘put an end to the terrorists’, or tighter border controls to deter the refugees.  But I must be honest with you; I’m sick of our solutions – in fact, I no longer believe that we can bring restoration on our own – we’ve lost the ability – we no longer understand that the language of peace cannot be spoken across the sound of gunfire or the rhetoric of politicians who want to “keep us safe”.

It took thousands of deaths in the current crisis to produce the one death that got our attention.  To name that boy this morning would dishonour all the others whose names have never been publicly attached to the conflict in and around Syria.  And our ‘action’ against the hateful group that has brought such unrest to the area has only made the refugee problem more urgent, so doing more in the form of swifter, stronger, more decisive ways (a.k.a. an expanded military response) is not the answer .

But restoration is on my mind today, and I find myself dreaming with Isaiah; desperate to sing with the Psalmist.  I want the restorative justice of the Almighty to roll down like thunder – to give legs to the lame and voice to the silent  – to restore, with “terrible recompense” the balance that was, in the beginning, God’s plan for creation – a balance that we have undone by our willful, sinful, selfish nature.

If faith is to play a meaningful part in finding a solution, then we need to consider what Isaiah imagined God’s justice might look like.  For he stood in this tortured region (tortured even in Isaiah’s day) and boldly proclaimed “Here is your God!”  He said this to a people without a country; to families driven from their homes by tyrants and economics; to the faithful and the doubter alike, Isaiah said that restoration will come as a result of our recognition of the glory and majesty of God

Isaiah speaks to a people who long for the end to the constant conflict in their lives.  He speaks as one who has promised the utter devastation of the land, and complete annihilation of the enemy.  But the hope he offers is Divine Hope – and the justice that is promised is, in the end, real justice.  All that has been broken will be made better than new.  All that has been laid waste will be restored to full usefulness.   All will be well, the prophet says; and means it.  Here is your God, and your God will save you.

Now if this sounds like another lesson in ‘pie in the sky’, think again.  Those who recognize the glory and majesty of God are already dealing differently with refugees than the rest of the world.  They are loading them on buses and getting them safely to the next border crossing (Hungary); they are crying with them at their loss; they are feeding them (in Germany) and welcoming them without reservation in spite of their government’s insistence that help would be limited (Iceland).  These are people of faith (and of no faith) who recognize the human need and respond with human compassion.  These people say with the same boldness “here is your God”, for they are acting (knowingly or not) out of the same generous, all-encompassing goodness that God brings to the table.  They are ‘laying  hands’ on the afflicted, not with force, but with gentle compassion.  This is part of that ‘terrible recompense’ – a phrase which is familiar to us only from Scripture, but which carries the sense of “doing a favour in response to a loss”.  It is “terrible” only because such a response ought never to have been necessary.

But thanks to our fallen nature, it is necessary.  Yet all is not lost!  Thanks be to God, we have the power to act.  We were been placed on the road to redemption at our Baptism.  That redemption is assured by Christ’s “obedience unto death” on the cross, and God’s incredible act of love that raised Christ from the dead.  Our actions can be simple; one person cannot solve a problem of this scale.  But as citizens in Europe has shown us, simple, heartfelt actions have a way of gathering strength – gaining momentum – and soon enough, minds and hearts are changed.

”Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; and the tongue of the speechless shall sing for joy.”

May it be so with us.  Amen.

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