Thursday, December 21, 2017

Longest Night

This is the astronomical longest night. The shortest day and the longest night of the year. This is the night upon which I hold fast to the promise offered us in scripture that, “there is a light in the darkness and the darkness shall not overcome it.” 
While this statement is biblical in origin, appearing in the Gospel of John (1:5) the Bible is not where I first encountered this profundity.  Rather, it was in my reading of Madeleine L’Engle’s, A Wrinkle in Time in which three children find themselves confronting the growing threat of evil forces in the universe.
They are not alone in the battle, they are aided by heavenly messengers. But, the heavenly messengers cannot fix things for the children. They cannot solve their problems, large or small. What these heavenly messengers can do is show them the glory of God and in that glory remind them of who they are and of the gifts they have. Remind them, that they have something that evil does not have.
But, while they offer the reminder, they are short on details. Meg, the protagonist, must discover for herself what she has that the evil named as “It” does not.
As she confronts the disembodied brain housing the forces of evil, she quickly discovers that the one thing she has that evil does not have is the capacity for love.  And thus, the only means she, and the universe, have for survival when facing this evil is their ability to love their enemy.  And, in loving their enemy, love becomes the one thing that can prevail.
Evil cannot withstand love. It may seem to prevail for a time, but in the end, evil does not win.
 As an adult, the strength of love in the face of the forces that seek to tear it down is a truth that I hold dear and that brings me comfort on the longest night…a night where we are offered the hope of the light that gleams in the darkness and the promise of a love that can endure all things.
With the promise of love, of light, and the expectant hope of a manger made ready, I offer this Advent Call to Worship: December Solstice
it is solstice night
it is the death of darkness

for an age
light has been slipping away
but now
no further

it shall return

and in the hearing of the darkness
the light says:
arise
shine
for your light has come

the promise frees itself from the frost
and long nights

there is an awakening
and in the hearing of the darkness
the light says:
the people who have walked in darkness
have seen a great light

the day now
shrunken yet
is filled with hope
and begins to stretch
pushing at the edges of darkness
scraping it away
with hope of new life

and in the hearing of the darkness
the light says:
for unto you a child is born
unto you a son is given

this is a darkness greater than any night
and the light more than the day

right in the heart of the deeper, human darkness
a manger is ready
as the age of brightness returns

the advent promise
has found a place
to chase the darkness
and make room for the light

written by Roddy Hamilton, and posted on the New Kilpatrick Church website.http://www.nkchurch.org.uk/



This is a hard season, this long night in which we encounter Christmas. It is a season in which the pressures of the world, the pressures of family, the pressures of our expectations, the pressures of the expectations of others are so keenly felt. And yet, and yet, there is the Advent promise of light.
So tonight, we chase the darkness with a story. A story that has room for our pain, our fears and our anxieties. A story about a God who understands the pain of loss and the joy of love. A story about a moment in time when all was right even tho’ the world was asunder.  This is our story--in the light, in the shadows, in the fear, in the pain, in the love, in the promise. Our story.
And, so in the here and the now, I invite you to consider the story. To consider the story of a broken world, a waiting stable, and a light that cannot be extinguished.
At this time, I invite us to a time of silence. At the end of our silence, I will pronounce the Amen.

Silence




Advent 3B 2017

Readings can be found here 

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Magnificat

I remember playing with a magnifying glass when I was little. Using it to look more closely at objects that interested me. A blade of grass, a flower, an insect, even the dirt—brought closer, made larger, and clarified through a simple lens.

A simple lens, magnifying a simple object. Magnifying it so that I could appreciate its complexity and its beauty in a way that I could not have seen on my own.

Magnify.

Magnificat.

Magnify.

Magnificat.

And, I am drawn to the lens. To the image gifted by a single word. A single word and a simple lens.

A simple lens, held at the right angle, to catch the light and illuminate something that we had never seen before.

Light refracted. Light intensified--and, she, and he, and we, witness to the light.

We are not the source, but we are the glass and we are the witness. To the light that shines in a world full of shadows. To the light that illuminates even the darkest of nights with a power beyond our knowing. To the light, who is the light, who is Jesus the Christ.

Magnify indeed. To take the small seed and nourish it to grow into a life that will become the light, the life of the world.

What will we magnify? What light will shine through us so that we might be the ones who give glory to God? Glory that is the magnification of all of the hopes that God has for us. Glory that is the love that Christ shared with us. Glory that is the fruit of the Spirit which is the breath that takes the seed so that it can grow in some field beyond our knowing.  

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.”

Light, glory, magnification...these first witnesses to Jesus testified, not to glorify themselves but, to magnify the work of God in Christ. John the Baptist, the first person mentioned in the Gospel of John, is sent to be a means by which the world can come to know Christ. Mary the mother of Jesus, sings words of fierce prophecy indicating her deep knowledge of who her son was going to be and how he would transform the world. It was not about them, never about them…it was about the one who was to come.

And, if we are to live into who we are called to be as Christians, we too must recognize that we are the means and not the end. We are the lens, but not the light.

It is our calling to magnify God. To testify to Christ. And, to live a life in which we, like the people of Thessalonica to whom Paul wrote in this, the earliest of his letters, “hold fast to what is good”. Hold fast, so that we can resist evil, maintain hope and magnify the light of Christ that the world needs in the shadowed places where despair holds sway.  

And, that is the truth of who we are called to be.

Called, not so that we can be gathered up, but called so that we can be sent out. Sent out to testify to the light we have seen and, in that testimony, to carry the light amongst the shadows.
What then to testify? What will we proclaim to be true, to be truth beyond all truth, to be the truth that sets us, all of us, free?

As Episcopalians, we ground ourselves in scripture, tradition and reason. In keeping with the centrality of scripture to our life as Christians, let us consider the truth as expressed by poet, pacifist and priest, the Reverend Daniel Berrigan. His Advent Creed weaves together the doubt and despair sown by the world, with the hope and love proclaimed in scripture by our ancestors in faith and by Jesus himself.

This is a creed which defies the powers that be with a proclamation of the power of God that is.

Advent Credo

“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.”

The Reverend Berrigan continues this creed with an invitation,

“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.

This is our truth—our Advent, waiting, longing, yearning truth. This is what we have, this is what we can proclaim. And now, is the time.

This time,

This time in which we are sent to magnify the light.

Amen.







Monday, December 4, 2017

Advent 1B 2017

The readings appointed for today can be found here

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Nurturing Hope

I remember scrubbing so hard at the paper with my eraser that I would tear a hole. Smudged, dirty, ripped.

And, then crumpled. A new paper needed.

The old discarded.

Imperfect.

Marred by my own heavy handedness and insistence upon perfection.

I’d messed up. I’d done it wrong.

And, in my frustration. Tears and tears.

My own mini-apocalypse as I looked down upon my creation and deemed it imperfect.

Strike through. Delete that.

It’s not right.

It’s not good.

It is broken and discarded.

Cast away from my hands and hidden in the darkness.

And, leaving me there. Disappointed and frustrated. And, afraid. Afraid to try again.

Afraid that I would make a mistake and be seen as imperfect.

As broken.

As useless.

Afraid, that I too would be thrown away, cast away as a failure.

Do you understand apocalypse? Do you understand fear? Do you understand the anxiety as we stand in the midst of brokenness and destruction?

From “me too” to tax codes. From Larpenteur to White Earth.

Can you understand the pain and the yearning of those who recognized the truth of their own iniquity and begged for God to, “tear open the heavens and come down!”?
I can understand.

I can understand the pain of a people who’d survived exile and had returned to their homeland—only to find that their city, Jerusalem has become a “desolation”.

Have we not seen desolation?

In today’s political climate, I can understand the lament of the psalm, “you make us the scorn of our neighbors; our enemies laugh among themselves”.

Have we not seen the news?

I can understand how the Gospel of Mark’s little apocalypse…falling stars, a darkened sun…was good news.

Have you too not longed for a new day?

Tear it up, rip it down, scream to the heavens, stand up, speak up, cry out!

But, no, not to destroy!

Not to destroy!

Did you not hear, the promise of spring in the budding fig? Did you not hear the call of the Shephard?

A new day is coming. And, on that day, all which is broken will be brought to perfection.

The fig tree blossoms—it is not destroyed. New life, not death, redemption not damnation. Transformation and not destruction.

Which brings us to the power of the cross.

The cross where we witness God’s abiding promise that violence and destruction cannot and will not win.

The cross, where despair gives way to hope.

The cross, where we claim our truth that nothing can destroy the love that endures all things.

The love that restores. The love that claims us as God’s own. The love that offers us grace and peace from God.

The love that makes us one with the Christ who abides.

Abide in me as I abide in you.

By being part of the body of Christ, we are part of a body that cannot be destroyed. By being part of the body of Christ, we are enriched with the knowledge that will strengthen us as we wait.

But, not passively, waiting is not passive. Because as we wait, by nature of our participation in the body of Christ that surpasses all human boundaries, we are called to the work of creation.

We are called to participate in an apocalypse not of destruction, but of transformation.

Creating a new world—not through damnation but through redemption.

We have an opportunity in this Advent season to prepare for a new creation, the birth of Christ.

A birth which transforms. A birth which offers us hope.

Perpetual hope, and a truth that what is old will pass away, not because we will destroy it—but because we will transform it.

There are some who will wonder that I can speak of hope.

Haven’t we seen enough to despair? Haven’t we cried out, only to be silenced? We’ve marched, voted, given, shared, taught, and preached—where is the fruit of our efforts? Where is this promised transformation? Where?

I want to save the world now. I don’t want to wait. Tear it up, rip it down, scream to the heavens!

But, what to scream? What to cry out?

The truth?

The truth?

Christ will be born.

A baby will be born, has been born already into a new creation. A new creation where they will learn about their own privilege; where they will hear of God’s love for all people, not just their people. A new creation where empathy and understanding are held as core values. A new creation where no means no, and consent is modeled and taught.

In this new creation, giving out of abundance is a given and not an option. In this new creation, truth is spoken in love. In this new creation, our children will hear the story of Jesus the Christ as THEIR story. THEIR story, a story in which love endures, evil is overthrown, and hope wins out.

And, this is where I find hope—because the baby has been born, our babies, those who cry out, fuss, laugh, and screech. They are being equipped with the speech and knowledge of every kind that they will need. That they will need to claim the knowledge and love of God as a means to take this imperfect world and transform it, not destroy it.

Transform it, because they will know that no one is useless, no one is beyond repair. They will know that imperfection is opportunity. They will know, from the hard truths and beautiful truths we name, that this is the beginning of a beauty that we have yet to imagine but that they will envision.  

I want to end with a book, a book that I wish had been there when I was a child weeping over my mistakes and destroying my own creation. “Beautiful Oops” by artist and illustrator Barney Saltzberg,

“A torn piece of paper is just the beginning.

Every spill

Has lots

Of possibilities

Bent paper

Is something to celebrate!

A little drip of paint…

Lets your imagination run wild.

A scrap of paper

Can be fun to play with.

A smudge and a smear

Can make magic appear

A stain has potential if you play with its shape.

Holes in your paper are worth exploring.

See! When you think you have made a mistake,

Think of it

As an opportunity to make something

Beautiful.”

The potter sees the opportunity. The potter never lets go of the clay…

And in the potter’s hands a broken world and a sinful people will be transformed.

Redemption, not damnation. Creation, not destruction.

Invitation, not rejection.

An invitation, in this Advent season, to be co-creators. Co-creators with the already born, yearned for, longed for, Christ.

Amen.




Jesus Wakes Up

Proper 18B, 2018 Lectionary text can be found at  http://lectionarypage.net/YearB_RCL/Pentecost/BProp18_RCL.html +++ Every week, ...