1 Thessalonians 2:1-12
I find the ideas contained in Isaiah’s words, “Zion shall be redeemed by justice…” (Isaiah 1:27) to be deeply moving for a number of reasons, and especially apt for this time of year. First of all the prophet affirms that God remains at work in the life of the people. There is an ongoing relationship, a conversation if you will, that God maintains. Advent is a time of waiting and anticipation. But we do not wait in isolation, we literally wait with God to see what God will do.
For another thing, redemption and justice help to define one another. To be redeemed by God is not the same thing as a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card in the game Monopoly. Redemption, though not dependant on our works, nonetheless presupposes our participation in God’s purposes. Meanwhile, God’s justice, when shared with the world, works to spread the grace and mercy upon which all community must be built if it is to survive. God’s redemption leads us to acts of justice, which in turn push the boundaries of community outward and help to make God’s redeeming work known to others.
Finally, Isaiah’s words resonate well with those of 1 Thessalonians where we read, “(We are) urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:12). God’s call has already been placed. The kingdom is already at hand. Redemption is a reality. Now all people are urged and encouraged and plead with to “lead a life worthy” of what God is doing, to enter wholeheartedly into the cycle of redemption and justice because that is what God’s people do.
What would God’s justice look like? How will we know when it arrives? These are not easy questions and good people with good intentions can argue long and hard about them without consensus. But it is a conversation that we must have at all times and it is a process that must allow and accept God’s word to stand supreme in our midst, during Advent and beyond. Part of our excitement at Advent should come from knowing that someday, in God’s time, the answers will become clear and the kingdom will arrive in its fullness, and that is something worth working for and living towards!
Prayer: O God, as we await your coming may we do so with justice for others and with thanks for your redeeming love in Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.