How Long?

January 07, 2015

The Rev. Bryan Cones
St. Augustine's Episcopal Church, Wilmette
Advent 1B, November 30, 2014

Watching the situation unfold in Ferguson, marked by anger and fear, distrust and the threat of violence from all sides, it struck me that it was not too unlike the scene in today’s gospel passage, written either just before or just after the terrible destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD: boots on the ground from Rome surrounding the city, soldiers dressed in a different kind of “riot gear” a population in revolt, armed and armored in its own way, and the little church in Jerusalem caught between them, still hoping for rescue in the glorious return of Jesus.

The ancient Hebrews speaking in the prophet Isaiah in the first reading were in a similar position, in exile in Babylon, Jerusalem a smoldering ruin, wondering if they would ever know God’s favor again. All these communities lament with the psalmist today: How long, O Lord? Let your face shine, they pray, that we may be saved!

How long? the lament rises from so many places. How long? lament the people of Sierra Leone, as Ebola ravages their country. How long? lament the millions of people living with HIV and AIDS, whom we remember this week with World AIDS Day. How long? lament immigrants here and elsewhere in the world without legal status or the protection of law. How long? lament the people of Syria and Israel/Palestine and Libya and Iraq and Afghanistan and Nigeria and South Sudan and every place where conflict seems without end. How long? lament people here in our city who struggle to get by day after day on poverty wages and hand-me-downs and the charity of others. How long? lament our neighbors in communities where violence and poverty are an everyday fact of life.

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