Old man: You paint the wall, you make it look beautiful.
Old man: We don’t want it to be beautiful, we hate this wall, go home.
i kept thinking when i was planning yesterday’s worship that it just wasn’t right, that i’d missed the point by a fraction of an inch, but that meant i had missed it entirely. i knew it was wrong because i had the message that i wanted everyone to hear, and that’s never a good sign. i knew it was wrong because the question i’d come up with to get to that message wasn’t a fair question… we were talking about the swords and ploughshares… and the question i was asking [embarrassingly predictably] was ‘what is the world you waiting for’.
i figured it out this morning when i woke at 3 [literally] with that conversation between banksy and the old man playing back in my head. ‘what am i waiting for?’ is a question i certainly need to ask myself, from within my privileged world – just like i need to see banksy’s pictures on the segregation wall. but for many of those who see the wall every day, the question is asked into a world that’s irredeemable. you can’t speak of a different world, it’s an insult to the all-absorbing, unrelenting horror of this one.
this morning i had coffee with a chaplain from one of our major hospitals, who works primarily in the psych unit. she talked about worship she’d led this week, asking the question of the same passage, ‘what is the waiting like?’. that’s exactly the question i needed to ask yesterday – it’s a question i can’t know the answer to, it’s a question that honours the moment, it’s a question that places the listener right, squarely, in the story of the incarnation.
and thanks to that conversation this morning, i’m suddenly feeling advent and christmas in this context are indeed possible… we’re skipping isaiah… we’re going straight to mary and joseph, and the bits that aren’t written into the gospels of how the pregnant waiting must have seemed unending, agonising, exhausting. we’re going to honour the interminableness of the wait, history holding its breath until it no longer has breath to hold … and just maybe we’ll get to the point where we might discover that you can do that only if you catch a moment of possibility, a hint and a glimpse… of a magnificat, for example.
well, it’s working in my head anyway.