The concreteness of God's compassion seems to have something to do with God's with-us-ness. That through Jesus, God comes to us as one who "dares to come close--to us a man has come who could truly say, 'I am with you'."
Sometimes I think that the miracle of our church feeding 5000 people each year through the MUST Friday Lunch Program is the dozen of so of our feeders who sign the book, pick up a tray of food and sit with those we feed. They try to be present with them over a meal. They allow themselves to be fed.
We get together as ministry teams and as committees and boards and allocate, debate, discuss, pray over and strategize about millions of dollars so that a child can bring in her pennies and nickels and donate them to the park project.
Amazing: most any Sunday, we'll have 1200 people gathered to worship as the people of God in and through our church. Remarkable: several times a year twelve or so people gather for 9 months or more and learn some things about the Bible and lots of things about being open, transparent, and honest with one another about life.
I recently heard a radio program called Speaking of Faith . Author and speaker Parker Palmer described a particularly dark time of depression he went through. Some people attempted to help through the "Gosh, Parker" method. "Gosh, Parker--it's so pretty outside, why don't you go outside. It'll make you feel better." And, "Gosh, Parker--you've helped so many people, you're such a good person..."
But there was one man who, after asking permission to do so, came over every afternoon and rubbed Mr. Palmer's feet. No advice. Not really much to say other than the occasional "I can feel your struggle today".
Mr. Palmer said that the massaging and the presence "kept me connected with the human race."
That's pretty concrete.
The vision from Revelation 21 is compelling, but eerily familiar to one we hear in Isaiah 65:17.
Surely Jesus was the ultimate fulfillment of that vision. Yet the vision remains.
To make it concrete, it's going to take all of us. We'll need the 5000 and the dozen. The 1200 and the 12. The millions and the nickels and pennies.
So not to steal the thunder of Visa's new ad campaign (after all, we had it first):