John’s vision of valleys filled, mountains lowered, crooked paths straightened, rough places leveled…
When, where, how does this happen?
“All flesh shall see,” John declares, “the salvation of God.” This, then, is God’s work. Nevertheless, for us to see it means we have a part to play, work to do.
I believe our work is expressed in John’s message of repentance and the Apostle Paul’s prayer that we “(produce) the harvest of righteousness.” Our work (what I’ll call “kin_dom labor”) demands persistence. For what is a harvest but a present – previously longed for, but hardly perfectly predictable – product of earlier efforts? The fruit of seed sown in tilled, long labored over soil. The result of human effort in league with the mystery of nature, the mystery of God.
One place I behold John’s vision is in our relationships, particularly in the nurturing of children, which definitely involves persistence; living and laboring faithfully in the moment whilst relinquishing control or the illusion of control over future outcomes.
Another place. Again, relationships. Particularly miraculous resurrection-moments arising from the graves of great difficulty, which I’ve been blessed to witness o’er many years of pastoral ministry. Moments when folk, long having grown discontent, amid charges and counter-charges, complaints and recriminations, finally exhausted and exasperated with themselves, repent, turn around, taking a hard, honest look at their situations, leading to mutual recommitment and cooperation.
Yet another place. Recently, I was honored and humbled to listen (for I had no words) to a friend share her saga. She spoke of unspeakable, unshakable despair about things as they were and herself as she was. Counseling and prayer had brought little peace. Drugs, prescribed and illicit, bore barest, briefest relief. Considering her past irredeemable and her future unfathomable, she believed that her present, that she was expendable. One night, she went alone across a beach to the tide’s edge, uncertain whether to continue walking into the ocean’s depths. Pausing, pondering, she, with tear-filled eyes, peered into a clear sky illumined by infinite stars. Suddenly, wholly unexpected, she felt an unbelievable, yet, she knew, profoundly undeniable sense of God’s presence. “I was aware,” she said, “of the vastness of creation, and though only an infinitesimal part,” her whispered words brimmed with conviction, “I am a part of it all.” Although none of it would be easy and all of it without guarantees, she resolved that she had much life to live and labor to do, and not solely for herself, but also for the sake of others.
Still another. Whenever, wherever we seek to soothe suffering of whatever kind and strive to remove the systemic causes of the suffering.
One more. When death, shaped in bombs and guns wielded by hostile human hands and hearts o’ershadows Newtown, Connecticut, Charleston, South Carolina, Beirut, Lebanon, Baghdad, Iraq, Paris, France, San Bernardino, California, among far too many places to name or number and survivors, mourning the dead, labor to forgive and continue to strive to live without surrendering to fear or vengeance.
All of this is kin_dom labor. Persistent. Alway praying to produce the harvest of righteousness of justice and love.
All of which holds in tension two disparate realities. In some places and moments in our lives and in the world, the harvest comes and the crops fail. Despite our faithful intentions and efforts, our children can stray and err, fractious relationships sometimes remain impaired, the cloud of despair may continue to hover over a sorrowed soul, suffering’s causes remain stubbornly resistant, seemingly triumphant, and gun violence is a terrorizing hallmark of life in our global village.
Nevertheless, in the face of all things contrary to our hope, I believe that we are called to kin_dom labor. Today. Every day. For the vision of valleys filled, mountains lowered, crooked paths straightened, rough places leveled – precisely because it is a vision, therefore, no less real for it has been dreamed, but not yet fully realized – ever beckons us to work so that all flesh shall see it together.
 Luke 3.6 (my emphasis)
 Philippians 1.11
 I shared my recount of my friend’s testimony, receiving her permission to include it here.