Hanging By A Thread
I was reminded today in my daily reading about the story of Damocles from ancient Greek lore. According to the story, Damocles, who was a courtier to King Dionysius, was running his mouth about how wonderfully easy it was to be the king.
Dionysius then offered to switch places with Damocles for the day, which Damocles eagerly accepted. The only caveat that Dionysius placed upon the arrangement was for a sword to be hung above Damocles head, held only be a single strand of a horse's tail.
Damocles learned the lesson: being king is perilous, and you don't want to be caught doing something terrible when/if the sword falls upon you.
There's another side to that lesson as well. Sometimes we can live our lives in complete dread of God and God's holiness--as if the Sword of Damocles was hanging over our heads, ready to fall at any time.
When this is our image of God, we often find ourselves acting out of obligation, guilt, duty or a combination of all three. There is no joy or hope in our relationship with that kind of God.
But the image of God that we find in Psalm 85 speaks to a God who moves among us in Advent toward a great moment of restoration.
Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. Love and faithfulness meet together, righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven. - Psalm 85:9-11The season of Advent reminds us that, while God is holy, God is also loving and just, and that God keeps God's promises. We don't have to live in dread of God's arrival. We also don't have to wonder if the world will ever be made right--even though God seems to be taking God's time.
As Walter Brueggeman has put it, the promises of God are "as sure as they are slow."
Live in hope and not dread today and every day after this. Know that what God has in mind for this broken and wounded world is loving, life-giving and incredible.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.