Sunday, December 6, 2015

Advent 2, 2015: Co-creators of a new possibility

Lectionary: Baruch 5:1-9 or Malachi 3:1-4; Canticle 16; Phillipians 1:3-11; Luke 3:1-6
Preacher: The Rev Dr. Valori Mulvey Sherer, Rector

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

The theme for the first week of Advent was hope. Hope is creative because we imagine a reality other than what is evident to our eyes. As Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

When we let God imagine in us a new reality, we begin to discover how to make it so. When change happens, however, people often get resistant. Even if the way things are is dysfunctional, people often cling to them because they are familiar. We know how to think, and act. We like things the way they are. The familiar phrase that comes to mind (I know it’s in yours too) is: “We’ve always done it this way.”

It should be no surprise then that the theme for this second week of Advent is peace.

Peace is one of those words that has so many meanings: harmony, or at least the absence of discord; serenity; calmness; the end or absence of war and violence. For us, as descendants of Jewish forebears, peace also means ‘shalom” – which has a larger meaning of the establishment of harmony and justice … the way things are meant to be according to the will of God.

As we lit our second Advent candle today, we acknowledged that God is never absent from us and that God is preparing something new in the world and in our hearts, gently leading us to new possibilities.

We prayed that God would teach us the peace that comes from justice – divine justice – which happens on earth when our hearts are transformed – changed – by God. Prepare us for this change we prayed. While God does that, we will practice humility and compassion.

The change that is coming, the change that is always coming until Christ comes again, is justice – divine justice, which is described prophetically in the Book of Baruch: “For God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low and the valleys filled up, to make level ground…”

This description of divine justice is repeated in the Gospel from Luke by John the Baptist who quoted the prophet Isaiah saying: “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God…”

The prophets aren’t talking about the earth’s geography. They are speaking about the geography of our hearts.

When our hearts are transformed – changed – by the love of God, we begin to love as God loves, and a new kind of fairness and respect and administration of the law begins to happen. Those up on the mountains, the ones with power and wealth and plenty make new choices, moving their own needs and desires from first place to last. Those in the valley who lack power and wealth and plenty, are raised up, moved from last place to first where their needs and desires become important and part of the decision-making process of the community.

When all humanity practices humility, that is putting ‘other’ first and ‘self’ last, a new thing is created – a world where divine justice reigns. And when divine justice reigns, there peace is found.

Today, we are the co-creators with God of this new possibility. God is leading us gently toward this as a church community. The changes we are experiencing right now cause some of us to react with resistance. But we find our peace in the knowledge that God is always present with us, gently leading us to a new possibility.

In order to get there, we practice humility and compassion, surrendering to God and trusting God’s plan for us and for the world. We let God lead us - we let God lead us - setting aside our temptation to push our own agendas, and we treat each other with tender compassion, whether we live on the mountain or in the valley, because in divine justice, all flesh – all flesh – will see/understand/know the salvation of God by the forgiveness of sins.

That is shalom. It’s the new possibility we hope for and work for as co-creators with God.

Last week we heard the call to stand up and lift our heads. This week we hear the call to stand up and throw “off the garment of sorrow and affliction… and put on the robe of righteousness that comes from God.”

In right relationship (which is what righteousness is) with one another, there is peace. In right relationship with God, there is shalom.

So then, let us continue our Advent preparation for change. Let us repent, that is, change our course, knowing that we are being gently led by God toward a new possibility – a possibility God is imagining in us right now. And as we go, let us commit to practicing humility and compassion with one another and with the world, for God loves all God has created.

I join with St. Paul who offered the following prayer for the followers of Christ in Philippi, and I offer it now for you, the followers of Christ at Redeemer.

Let us pray. “I am confident of this: that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ… And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best…” Amen. Peace. Shalom.

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