Welcome to this theme issue on shalom. You may not see that word outside of this editorial, but the whole issue can be summed up in that one Hebrew word. In reality, shalom is more than a word—it’s a concept, a dream, a promise. Whether we are talking about becoming a hospitable community, caring for the needs of people with disabilities, fighting human trafficking, working for immigration reform, or seeking solutions for the conflicts in the Middle East, we are talking about becoming a people of shalom.
While I was talking with someone the other day, she spoke of the “time collapse” of the Christian year. “Every year, Christ is born, then dies, and rises again. The next year he is born, then dies, and rises again. . . .”
Why do we rehearse the entire gospel message year after year? We do it because we are people who forget. We need to be reminded of the truths the Christian year contains. We need to be reminded of the grace of God’s story and of the fact that we are God’s beloved, saved, and redeemed children.
How do we speak in worship? What language do we use? Sometimes the best response is silence, awe, and wonder. Sometimes we need to spring to our feet with joy, raise our hands in praise, and clap with the trees of the field. We speak with unscripted words such as “amen” and “praise the Lord” and with scripted but equally sincere phrases such as “thanks be to God” and “hear our prayer.” And sometimes we speak in poetry.
For many of us, Advent marks the beginning of the church year. But is it the proper place to start? The season from Advent to Epiphany is only one chapter in the metanarrative that began with the creation of the world. Scripture makes it clear that the mission of God is to redeem the world, to bring the nations to himself.
In the Old Testament, God chose to work primarily through the Hebrew people to bring others into the covenant community. In Genesis 12 God says to Abraham:
Some years ago at a Calvin Theological Seminary chapel service, the college choir led us in singing “My Life Flows on in Endless Song” by Robert Lowry, also known as “How Can I Keep from Singing” (see p. 3). It was a good service, but I don’t remember reflecting on it much as I tucked the bulletin into my coat pocket.