A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots, a branch will be fruit. – Isaiah 11:1 (NIV)
When God was fired for being too old, God responded with restorative justice instead of a lawsuit. God fruited the branch. God drew the baby near. God circled before trying another landing with humanity and its hardened heart.
My friend got fired from her job, the one she had for 28 years, when she was 59. It’s a long story. Maybe she wasn’t doing her job well, although she did work at it 12 hours a day. Maybe that last review she got didn’t really mean that she was considered a valuable employee. Maybe it was, as “they” said, that the virus had changed everything.
She considered a lawsuit, charging age discrimination. She couldn’t figure out how to sue the people she had loved too long. She considered dignity. Just take the severance and run. Finally, she chose to be the first person her lawyer knew to try restorative justice. Her lawyer said, “Wow. What a good idea. Let’s try it. At least it will educate your oh-so-liberal system about how to behave.”
God might have felt the same way. God’s people couldn’t even leave Egypt without wanting to go back. They couldn’t stop tribal warfare, no matter how special and unique they were meant to be. They violated creation and built fancy temples that elevated themselves while pretending to elevate God. They mouthed prayers and gave God a great review.
In Advent, God draws near with restorative justice. God refuses to take the low road. God tries again, this time drawing near, quietly, with a baby.
Help us give you another chance with us, God, not that we deserve it but because it fruits the dead branch. Amen.
Donna Schaper is Pastor at the Orient Congregational Church on the far end of Long Island, New York. Her newest book is Remove the Pews: Spiritual Possibilities for Sacred Spaces, from The Pilgrim Press.