In the early ’80s, Merle Haggard came out with a great country song about “Rainbow Stew.” The song celebrated a time when everything in the world would be right and then, well, I’ll let some of the lyrics enlighten you. This is verse three:
You don’t have to get high to get happy
Just think about what’s in store
When people start doing what they ought to be doing
And they won’t be booing no more
When a president goes through the white house door
Does what he says he’ll do
We’ll all be drinking that free bubble up
And eatin’ that rainbow stew
(Merle Haggard from the album Rainbow Stew Live at Anaheim Stadium)
It seems there is embedded in the psyche of every human that notion that one day all will be made right and justice and righteousness will prevail for all people. This hope, this dream, drives us to seek out justice and “fairness” now. We instinctively believe that “doing right” should be what everybody wants. And we have in all of human literature, especially in religious expectations, the common thread of the “Day” when everything will be good and holy, and all people will be at peace and satisfied. No one will be left out and all will be well.
It is a beautiful expectation. It really is a blessed hope. AND it is a terrifying thought!
What? Are you insane? A terrifying thought? Seriously?
Yes, seriously. Look at our Gospel Lesson in Luke 4:16-22:
At that time, Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day. And he stood up to read; and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.
You see most folks hold this hope without fully realizing the implications of what they hope for. We are exceedingly adept at self-delusion. Because, if there is coming a Day when all injustices will be corrected, if there is coming a Day when all hurts will be healed, all lies exposed, all mistreatments, insults, and wounds addressed and corrected, then every person I’ve mistreated, or hurt, or lied about, or selfishly taken advantage of will be avenged and I will stand revealed for my mistakes. On that Day, instead of reveling in the delicious payback meted out to those who mistreated me, I will be standing in the light of the righteous judgment of my own faults and my own mistreatment of others. Kinda casts a different light on things, doesn’t it?
It is a wonderful thing to look forward to that Day when all will be made right. But, for those who are spiritually mature and not simply seeking a time when everybody who has hurt them is made to pay, the deeper truth of this hope is that I must work diligently NOW to repent and ask forgiveness and allow the grace of God to transform my actions toward others into righteous and peaceful love. No wonder the Church teaches me to pray for “a Christian end to our lives, peaceful, without shame and suffering, and for a good account of ourselves before the awesome judgment seat of Christ, let us ask the Lord. Grant this O Lord.”
Today, let’s ask God to so reveal His love for us that we are given the grace to search our own hearts for our own faults and not even take notice of the faults of others. Let us become so gracious in our words, in our actions, in our choices, that when The Day comes, we will be joyous in the righteous judgments of the Lord when every motivation is brought to light, when every action, every word, is examined, and those who have already become practiced in humble forgiveness and repentance will naturally and quickly lay all their burdens and expectations at the feet of Christ and cry out “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” By the way, Happy New Year! Let’s be Orthodox on Purpose all year long.
P.S. Creator of the universe, setting times and seasons by Your sole authority, bless the cycle of the year of Your grace, O Lord, guarding our rulers and Your nation in peace, at the intercession of the Theotokos, and save us. For You are a Good God and You love mankind, and to You, we send up glory, to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit! Amen.