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November 2007
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January 2008

Advent 2

Sometimes it is hard to reclaim the original impact of words written thousands and thousands of years ago.  We are an over-stimulated, jaded crowd.  We have to peel away our context and really return to a different time and place.

Each writer this week is calling for a new world order…not just a supreme leader but a new structure…a new way of being.  And they aren’t just calling for it…they are calling their communities to it, envisioning it, advocating for it, asking (pleading) for it, they are hungry…desperate…for it.  They cannot go on living this way—they are asking for radical change.

Imagine Isaiah…imagine John the Baptist speaking today…

“…Now is the time to turn back to who God created you to be.  It is difficult to do this the way the world currently exists, but I am here to tell you that you have it within you to live the life of true Nature...true Creation. 

If we will trust what we have been told and what we have seen in Jesus, we can live in ways that create more joy and goodness every day rather than defending against pain and difficulty. 

One has come who gave us the power...the Spirit within us to put our own needs to be right and liked and comfortable aside so that we can see and hear the needs of the other people around us.  God shines light on the difficult and cold and dark places of our world and we are the ones that must look in to those illuminated places. 

The cat will lovingly play with the bird.  The Democrat and the Republican will engage in open and honest conversation.  The American Consumer Patriot and the Iraqi Tribal Leader will put down their weapons with their fear and insecurity and embrace one another as brothers.  The superficial high school student and the person with disabilities will work together to embrace everyone who is scared to stand out.  The native peoples that came before us and the invisible immigrant peoples that make it possible for us to buy cheap tomatoes will share an embrace of forgiveness to the people that exploit them.

In this new Creation people are willing to step outside of their home fortresses of isolation and hold the hand of their neighbor.  Yes, the lion will lay down with the lamb, but more impressively the radically religious will share a meal with the gay and diseased and poor and abused and divorced and imprisoned and uneducated.

…Hey presidents and chairpersons and elders and bishops and principals and partners…your titles have blinded you.  The only titles that matter are Seeker and Child of God. 

You count plenty…just as you are, not because of your power or authority or policies or borders or…  All that stuff doesn’t really change the world…only God can do that…and only people ready to embrace a different way will see and be in that changed world.

I pray that all of us can be freed from the power and the status that burdens us and leaves us sucked dry, unable to love, to gather together, to enact the Kingdom of God.

+Is there a prophetic voice today?
+Who are the prophets speaking to you?
+What do those voices say to you today?
+Can you see their vision?  Can you taste it?
+Do you know how to live into that vision?

O come thou Root of Jesse's tree, an ensign of thy people be; before thee rulers silent fall; all peoples on thy mercy call.  Rejoice!  Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Not Yet

One of my absolute favorite things about KC is that at least once a month, I get to sit and listen to someone else preach. Yesterday, Anne Y. gave a reflection inspired by the readings for the first Sunday in Advent. I loved the way in which she invited us into a journey of discovery: from scripture to an experience she had while in worship on Pentecost and from there to the insight that a desire to connect with God's time leads us to connect more deeply with the present moment.

For me, this was a wonderful twist on some Advent themes. Each year, at the beginning of December we try to get ourselves into a mental place where we are anticipating the arrival of Jesus--making room for his birth in our lives and in our hearts. The funny thing about this is that Jesus has, of course, been born already. Preparing for his birth involves a kind of pretending--like reading out loud from a book when we've already read the last chapter. I like how Anne admitted the obvious--we're preparing for something that already is, now--and used that as the basis for going deeper spiritually.

I know, in my head, that what Anne said is true. I have read about "the power of now" and "the precious present" and how every moment is a gift. I agree with all of that. But. Maybe it's my oppositional personality, but all day I've found myself unsettled, thinking about how the Now really isn't all there is. What about everything that's not yet here?

One of the bottom line truths that organizes my life is this: the world is not as it should be. We've managed to mess up God's good creation in so many ways, it boggles the mind. And while I am deeply relieved that the problems of the world aren't mine to solve, I am very sure I should not ignore them, either. I believe in each person doing what he or she can, and I cringe at any philosophy that seems to let me, or anyone else, off the hook. And living into the beauty of the present can sound to me at times a lot like shrugging your shoulders and saying, oh well, I guess this is as good as it gets.

I like Advent (more than I like the Christmas Shopping Season) because it invites us to sit in that place of yearning, of wanting something that isn't yet here. It makes us look around and say, wow, there is a lot of darkness in my world and in my heart, and I could sure use a day star to appear round about now. Yes, that star is already shining, but sometimes you have to go into the darkness and let your eyes adjust before you can see it.

I have struggled with Seasonal Affective Disorder about this time of year for most of my adult life. I mean this in the biological sense (and have found that running at noon most days helps a lot) but I've also struggled with my disordered sense of what my affect should be during December. Shouldn't I be merry and bright? Aren't I ruining my kids' childhood by not conjuring up more cheer to serve with their egg nog? But in recent years, I've been letting go of my wish to feel something different, and instead seen my seasonal sadness as an opening, as a confession that I am not "all good" or "all set" and neither is the world.

O Holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray. Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us this day....