Scripture for Advent 3C can be found here
Joy, Hope, Locusts and Honey
I’m not going to give you statistics—you have mpr for that. I’m not going to describe some horrific scene of terror, you have cnn for that. I’m not going to frame or spin or detail or op ed this or that for you—pick up any paper or scroll through any newsfeed for that.
What I’m going to do is preach the Gospel. I’m going to proclaim good news. I’m going to look to scripture and mine it for hope. I’m going to point to Bethlehem and every hope, and every dream, and every glimpse of that love that breaks into those places most desperately in need of love.
Because, we need hope and we need joy—because, if we lose sight of hope and we forget the joy that God takes in us, then we lose the potential to work towards the transformation of what is, into what God calls into being.
Hope keeps on going. Hope knows that we are worth saving. Hope sees the potential. Hope proclaims that today is not tomorrow and that tomorrow will be even better than today.
Hope keeps us alive and launches us into a new tomorrow. Hope claims our belovedness.
Hope proclaims good news of a better tomorrow to all the people.
Hope reminds us that we have the power to be akin to Christ. Hope shares coats, hope shares food, hope refuses to exploit others because hope has enough.
Hope knows that we are broken, but hope also knows that God’s grace and mercy are not hindered by our brokenness.
Nothing we do or don’t do can separate us from the love of God and the prophet proclaims rejoicing and the author of the epistle enjoins us to gentleness.
Be gentle, rejoice,
The peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Peace which makes no sense, hope that makes no sense, love that makes no sense, good news that makes no sense.
Here we are then, a senseless people—embracing the absurdity of hope and in that embrace ushering in the long expected Jesus.
God is not waiting for us to get our act together and be perfect parents in perfect places, God is going to be born head first into a world that’s awash in violence and despair.
A baby in a pit of vipers--rejoice people of God, rejoice!
It would be hard to find a more jarring juxtaposition! And yet, beyond all understanding, here we are.
John who sups on locusts and wild honey and woos his congregants by calling them snakes. Zephaniah who castigates those who break the covenant with God. Paul who writes from his jail cell an enjoinder to rejoicing.
Each of them addressed a broken world—and each, in their own way, offered a reason for rejoicing.
Let’s focus for just a moment on John the Baptist…cheerful fellow, an optimist really. Glass always half full with that one!
Really…I’m serious. This Gospel is just that good news! And, it’s because of a truth that John the Baptist proclaims—a truth about who we all are and what we are capable of being.
Luke, the author of the Gospel, tells us that John’s audience is composed of tax collectors and other people on societies’ margins—these are not the good and respectable people, these are people of disrepute. Tax collectors in John’s day were considered fundamentally corrupt, in fact, a tax collector’s presence in a home was considered, by some, to make that home unclean. Tax collectors embodied the abuses of Rome and the emperor who commanded them. And, so here they are—outcast from society for their role in the exploitation of the Judean people.
If these tax collectors and sinners had been satisfied with their state, they would not have gone out into the wilderness to be berated by a moody prophet. They are looking for something better than what they are. And, John sees in these people the potential to be transformed and to become other than what they are—or perhaps, more truly what they might be.
So, John greets them quite cheerfully, “you brood of vipers!”
And, then John the Baptist identifies their potential and their desire to be transformed.
And, when they ask what they need to do to be transformed, his advice is simple…
Share coats and food, treat others with respect and dignity.
You can do it, you can be better, you can transform yourselves and the world you inhabit.
This is good news. Amazing news really.
And, this is exactly the news we need in the here and the now.
As we read the statistics, as we despair over the news, as we wonder at a society that seems literally hell bent on its own destruction.
We can listen to the words of the wild haired prophet and see a fundamental truth—we are all capable of doing God’s will in the world around us.
We are not powerless, and there is hope. And, today we take joy in that hope!
Prophets, apostles and martyrs—rejoicing in the inbreaking of God and the fulfillment of God’s promise.
Peace beyond all understanding! Children out of stones! Trust without fear!
These are holy fools, proclaiming a wisdom the world would call foolish.
Fools proclaiming a new hope and a truer truth!
So, foolish ones, let us embrace the absurdity of hope in this day and age. Let us, accept the gift of peculiar peace. Let us proclaim, from the prison of our own making, that there is a way out of despair and Christ in our captivity.
Poet and modern day prophet, Daniel Berrigan writes…
Daniel Berrigan (born 1921)
“It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss—
This is true: For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life;
It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction—
This is true: I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly.
It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word, and that war and destruction rule forever—
This is true: Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, his name shall be called wonderful councilor, mighty God, the Everlasting, the Prince of peace.
It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil who seek to rule the world—
This is true: To me is given authority in heaven and on earth, and lo I am with you, even until the end of the world.
It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted, who are the prophets of the Church before we can be peacemakers—
This is true: I will pour out my spirit on all flesh and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions and your old men shall have dreams.
It is not true that our hopes for liberation of humankind, of justice, of human dignity of peace are not meant for this earth and for this history—
This is true: The hour comes, and it is now, that the true worshipers shall worship God in spirit and in truth.
So let us enter Advent in hope, even hope against hope. Let us see visions of love and peace and justice. Let us affirm with humility, with joy, with faith, with courage: Jesus Christ—the life of the world.”
(From Testimony: The Word Made Flesh, by Daniel Berrigan, S.J. Orbis Books, 2004.)