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.




1 comment:

Don Drake said...

This December 4 sermon is powerful in its poetic simplicity. I am sorry I was out west and unable to hear it in person, because I think it would have had even more impact on me. Thanks for reminding all of us regardless of our age how we give up too easily and can be our own worst enemies. Premature judgment of every kind is an enemy of us all. All is process, and we forget that at our peril.

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