The Scandal of the Particular

What if…

What if Isaiah’s prophecy isn’t as cosmic as we tend to make it out to be?

Bear with me, this is going somewhere, I promise.  See, it seems as though we hear the prophecy from Isaiah, as it relates to John the Baptist, every Advent 2.  It is the go-to text for Prophet Sunday.  “”The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'”

We read it and preach it as part of God’ cosmic plan for salvation history: a leveling of the holy highway between heaven and earth upon which the Christ, the Logos, the Second Person of the Trinity will come with angels and power and might.

What if…

What if Isaiah’s prophecy isn’t as cosmic as we tend to make it out to be?

What if the highway isn’t the grand eight-lane that connects the sacred from the profane?  What if the highway is within each individual human heart?  That’s what I mean by “The Scandal of the Particular,” what if the pathway John the Baptist is attempting to level is found in each one-on-one encounter between him and one who has come to be baptized?  We tend to see prophets as speaking to nations, whole peoples – if not the whole world – but grand pronouncements are only so effective.  The real work of the Kingdom, the place where lives are changed, is in the particular, the individual encounters that happen dozens of times every day: at the grocery store, in traffic, around the coffee pot, at the dinner table, on the phone, through Facebook, and everywhere else.

What if the pathway of God’s redemption is being built, not by the masses, but by millions of individual relationships – day, after day, after day?


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