What is it when you want something so bad, and there it is?
What is that?
No, it’s more than hope.
When you’ve just worked out, and your clothes are clinging to you and your legs are shaking. Your mouth is dry and your throat is parched and you’re reaching for that bottle of ice cold water ….
What is that?
Is it anticipation?
Isn’t it?
No, it’s more than anticipation.
You’ve been outside in the dead of winter, and you can’t feel your toes. And where your toes connect to your feet, it hurts. And you come inside, pull off your boots and the two layers of socks and stretch your feet out to the fire … ahhhhh ….
What is that?
It is more than anticipation, isn’t it?
Fulfillment, maybe? Satisfaction? Gratification?
Hmmm, gratification may be the best word we’ve got, but—
well, words don’t—
words don’t.

It’s perfect. Perfect.
It’s when you first put on glasses and the blur becomes a beautiful clarity ….
It’s when you realized for the first time that church wasn’t something you did for your parents or your Sunday School teachers or your youth minister, but something you needed—something you wanted for the well-being of your being, and the Lord’s Supper, for the first time, became nourishing—sustenance ….
It’s when you asked him to marry you, and he said, “Yes” ….
It’s when you looked into the eyes of your newborn child for the first time to see a new image of God—breathing—it is so darn good ….
It’s when you realized that ministry wasn’t an option for you, but a sacred calling. God calling, you. And you said, “Yes” ….
It can be as mundane as hitting the shot with a seven iron and watching the ball arc into the sky ….
It’s when you can’t imagine anything being better ….
It’s a click deep deep down inside as two pieces you may not even haven known needed to be connected fit together ….
It’s a connection—a fit—a belonging ….
It’s a sigh ….
A moan too deep for words ….
No words—no words.
It’s perfect—too much for words.

How do you preach that?
How do I preach that?
How do I use words to evoke something beyond words?
Tell my people something they haven’t experienced?
Don’t know?
What many of them can’t even imagine?
How do I preach that?
I don’t. I don’t.
I find the deepest dreams—
the richest hopes—
the needs most true to who we are as people created in the image of God,
and I know that there, there, God is at work.
There, God is to be found.
I don’t preach.
It’s those longings that preach—
that resonate in a person’s soul—
that ring true.
It’s God at work in the truths of a person’s soul who preaches.
Never forget that, I remind myself
over and over.

So to those who were slaves in a foreign land,
I say the day is coming
that there will be neither slave nor free, Jew nor Greek, male nor female.
To those wandering in the desert, I say there’s a land of milk and honey—
or maybe, living waters flowing through desolate wastelands.
To those shivering over an open grate on a big city sidewalk,
I say, there shall be no cold or frost—
to those whose cynicism allows them only to be against and not for, there will be an integrity within enthusiasm and exuberance—
to those who can’t see, there shall be no more darkness—
to the lame, there shall be dancing—no more tears.
The outcast will be gathered in and their shame changed into praise—
the lonely will be embraced—
the day is coming when one suffers all will suffer—
when one rejoices, all will rejoice,
and the trees will clap their hands for joy.
The lion will cavort with the lamb—
the very rocks will sing—
the mountains will drip wine,
and even the dead, dry branches of yesterdays will bloom and blossom in glorious color.
The whole earth will shine with glory.

There will, in fact, be a new heaven and a new earth,
and you, you shall be called by a new name—
your true name.
Rejoice! Rejoice and exult!
The day is coming—
a day of everlasting joy
when we will all be welcomed home,
and there will be praise,
and there will be thanksgiving
in the voice of song—
a sigh too deep for words.

How do I preach it? I listen.
And I tell them it’s like ice cold water after an intense workout—
like a warm, warm fire on a cold, cold night—
like asking her to marry you and having her say, “Yes”—
like putting on glasses for the first time—

I tell them it’s a click deep, deep down inside,
as pieces that have been apart
that belong together—fit.
I tell them there will be a connecting—a belonging.
It’s perfect.
And I tell them these are the promises of God.
We’re going to the promised land.

And now is not the time—
it’s not the time to say this was a land of plenty,
with food enough for all—room enough for all—
not the time, now, to point out that those who won’t see, their darkness too, will disappear.
Now is not the time to say that the outcasts will be gathered when we include them—
that their shame will be turned to praise when we love them.
It’s not the time to say that oppression and injustice cannot be where we do not permit them to be—
Not the time to say that all will suffer when one suffers when we choose to live that way—
when we dedicate our living to such a loving.
That’s for me to know.

My people don’t want to hear:
we’re growing to the promised land—
as true as it may be.
Don’t want to hear that our growth has been stunted—
that we are not the wonderful, beautiful, glorious growth we ought to be—
that there is too much of death about us.
We’re growing to the promised land?
They don’t want to hear that—
as true as it may be.

And the truth of the matter is
that the dry and dead branches of our yesterdays
do bloom and blossom in the glory of the presence of God!
We are going to the promised land!


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