Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Eyes on the Prize, Hands Steady on the Wheel

The climate talks are underway in Paris.  We've had climate talks before, and the world continues to warm.  I wouldn't blame those who are not optimistic.

The message of the last decade seems to be that we can't really be sure what future is coming at us.  Will the seas rise and swallow the coastline?  Will we have ever stronger storms?  Will wildfires burn up the inland regions?  Will it ever rain in the western U.S. again?

I've spent my life expecting disasters of all sorts that didn't come.  I spent the 80's and 90's watching for a mushroom cloud that would signal the beginning of the nuclear end.  Many people find that memory quaint. 

Will we some day see my fretting over rising sea levels as similarly quaint?  What apocalypse will haunt us then?

Today is World AIDS Day--once this spectre haunted my nightmares.  Now I am haunted by other diseases, the cancers that seem determined to colonize us all.

Yet it is important to remember how much progress has been made.  AIDS is no longer an automatic death sentence, and there are drugs that work prophylactically to prevent transmission.  Likewise, many cancers now have an admirable survival rate.  The Ebola outbreak of last year has subsided.

Today is also the anniversary of the day that Rosa Parks refused to move from her seat on that Montgomery bus.  She's been painted as a tired seamstress, an accidental activist, but that picture is not true.  She was an activist her whole life

Parks' act is often given credit for launching the Civil Rights Movement, but what many forget is that various communities had begun planning for the launch, even before they could see or know what it would look like.

In fact, for generations, people had prepared for just such a moment. They had gotten training in nonviolent resistance. They had come together in community in a variety of ways. They were prepared.

I am also thinking of those Advent texts that talk about waiting and watching.  We are not waiting in a spirit of hopelessness.  No, we wait and watch because we know that the trajectory of human history can change direction very quickly.  It's important to keep our hands steady on the wheel, to remember to stay on the course for as long as it makes sense.

That old Gospel song reminds us to keep our eyes on the prize and to hold on.  The sacred texts remind us that there's more to waiting than hanging out to see what happens.  We are about to hear the stories of John the Baptist calling us to a different vision and Elizabeth and Mary, both improbably pregnant.

What visions incubate inside you during these darkening days of the year?  What Advent candles burn brightly to beat back the gloom?

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