Sunday, December 2, 2018

Advent 1-C: Expect redemption


Lectionary: Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25:1-9; I Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 21:25-36



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En el nombre del Dios: Padre, Hijo, y Espiritu Santo. Amen.

Back when I was a victim advocate teaching groups like law enforcement and the judiciary, I used to teach about the very different perspectives of being powerful and being powerless in the world.

For example, women are still enculturated to look down and to the right when a male or other powerful person approaches them, for instance, on a sidewalk or a hallway. This pattern transcends age and other descriptors like education and economic status. Many times, the woman will also apologize even though they’ve done nothing but take up space on their common path.

The enculturated message is to be submissive in the face of dominance. Avert your gaze. Look down and you won’t get hurt. It’s an ancient survival tool that was carried into social and cultural mores. Don’t look them in the eye. Dominant creatures apparently get really angry and often aggressive when you do.

This kind of disempowering enculturation, which is evident in the cultures of our forebears in the faith as described in our Scripture, leads, of course, to a power imbalance that perpetuates interpersonal violence among people, and fear of insignificance and shame among believers in their relationship with God.

Countering this power imbalance among people is simple but it takes establishing new habits for the powerless and the powerful. I suggested to the powerful (judges, prosecutors, law enforcement officers) that they become cognizant of their power and how it affects those they meet in everyday circumstances – for instance, when passing someone in the hallways of the courthouse or police station. I encouraged them to look down after a quick acknowledgement of the person, step aside, and allow the other person to pass through the space first. In other words, adopt the submissive behavior.

To the powerless, I suggested they look up at the face of the powerful one approaching them, smile if they could, and stand tall, demonstrating they know they matter in that instantaneously shared decision about who would have priority to pass through the space.

This is Jesus’ message to us in today’s gospel – that we matter to God and can expect redemption because of God’s love for us. “Stand up… raise your heads” Jesus says.

Jesus’ words remind me of a song by Bob Marley who, moved the poverty he witnessed in Haiti and it’s effect on the lives of the Haitian people, wrote his iconic song: “Get Up, Stand Up.” Who remembers the chorus from that song?

Get Up, Stand Up, stand up for your right
Get Up, Stand Up, don't give up the fight

Stand up, Jesus says. Raise your heads – look into the face of God with confidence of God’s love for you. You have nothing to fear because the All-mighty God has adopted the submissive behavior in the person of Jesus Christ who came among us to serve, living humbly – not as a king.

So when we find ourselves feeling faint from fear and foreboding, Jesus cautions us: “Be careful that your life energy and resources aren’t squandered by attempts to avert your fear or to dull the pain of life.

Instead, he says, pray your way through whatever leads you to fear or dread and “stand before the Son of Man” knowing you matter. Get up. “Stand up and raise your heads because your redemption is coming near.”

In other words, expect redemption.

We are not alone. We are never alone; and we matter to Jesus who came among us once, submissively… redemptively… and will come again upon the completion of his work of redemption – work, by the way, we are called and empowered to share with him by our Baptism.

You will see terrible things happening, Jesus says: distress, confusion, people fainting from fear and foreboding. It’s happening now and will continue to happen.

In fact, all of heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away… So let’s remember together just a few of Jesus’ words:

• ‘I am the resurrection and the life.
• Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live (Jn 11:25)
• “Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.’ (Mt 21:22)
• “ I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete… (Jn 15.11)
• “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.” (Jn 14:18)

As we lit the first Advent candle, we remembered that “Christ is always coming, entering a wounded world, a wounded heart, and [we] dared to express our longing for peace, …healing, and the well-being of all creation.”

That is hope – the faith that in the midst of any darkness the healing light of Christ is coming…it is always coming.

By our hope we long for ‘shalom’ - the way things ought to be according to God’s plan of redemption. This longing leads us to trust in the power of God’s redeeming love and to expect it to be there for us and for the world -every single time it is needed.

The news in our world - and even in our church – has been difficult to bear lately: mass shootings, war, refugees being gassed instead of welcomed, the strong abusing the weak - another famous cultural hero fell to the “MeToo” reality this week.

But harder to bear, I think, is how so many Christians are responding: calling for more guns, including having armed guards at church services where the Prince of Peace is being worshiped; or dismissing the suffering of refugees seeking asylum while taking a self-protective stance that says, ‘My safety matters more than theirs and besides, they scare me.’

It’s disheartening; which is why Jesus cautioned us not to squander our energy and resources trying to protect ourselves or our way of life, and not to dull our experience of the pain of life, but instead, to notice that when we see these things we should remember that in the midst of any darkness the healing light of Christ is coming… it is always coming.

And now it comes through us – who are God’s partners in the work of redemption. Because it is not just our redemption we seek but the redemption of all.

Looking around at the signs in our world today, it appears the time has come for us to get up, stand up and work together for the rights of all until everyone knows they matter to God and to us. and that they too can expect redemption. Amen.