Sunday, December 30, 2018

Christmas 1-C, 2018: Tabernacles of God

Lectionary: Isaiah 61:10-62:3; Psalm 147; Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7; John 1:1-18

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En el nombre del Dios: Padre, Hijo, Y Esiritu Santo. Amen.

I begin today with the Prologue of John, that most beautiful and familiar scripture, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." and I want to read to you a translation that I've done directly from the Greek. It's not different from what we read in Scripture, though it will sound a little bit different because in Greek there are layers of meaning; so where the Scripture chooses a single word, I'll offer a couple of words which fill out the intended meaning.

1. In the state of beginning, a living voice (a conception/an idea) happens and this living voice (this conception/idea) is God; and the living voice (the conception/idea) exists for the advantage of God.

2. This existence was in the beginning with regard to God.

3. Everyone individually and all things begin to be, to appear in history through him (on account of him) and without him not even one thing begins to be or comes to pass.

4. Every living soul who begins to be and all that comes to pass through him is the absolute fullness of life and apart from him no one comes into being and not one thing comes to pass.

5. Indeed, this truth shed light on the darkness (which was due to an ignorance of divine things) and the darkness (the ignorance) did not take possession of it.

6. A human being came into existence, sent from God, and his name was John.

7. He came to tell people about future events; and he knows these things because he was taught by divine revelation about the true and sincere light in order that those who hear him, each one individually and everyone might be persuaded and have confidence in him.

8. He is not the true and sincere light, but he exists in order to be a witness, to implore people on account of the true and sincere light.

9. The true and sincere light is present among human beings and is the one who makes saving knowledge clear to each one, to everyone, and to all things. This true and sincere one comes into the harmonious order (the world) for human beings.

10. He is present in the harmonious order (the world), and through him the world happens but the world did not learn to know or understand him.

11. He arrives to what belongs to him, and what belongs to him does not accept him (it does not allow him to join them to himself).

12. But as for those who take hold of his hand, who are persuaded about his true name and everything that that means, to them he gives the gift of the power of choice, the freedom to begin being children of God;

13. children who are born of his blood (his seat of life) not from human action; children who are brought over to his way of life by God.

14. And the living voice (conception/idea) began to be flesh and lived for a while among us; and we look upon him with attention, we contemplate and admire him.

15. John affirms what he knows by divine revelation and cries out in a loud voice saying, “This one exists, and his existence affirms what was said: that the one who comes after me is the one who is first in time and place and rank.”

16. Because he himself is the fulfillment, we (each one individually, and everyone as a whole) take a hold of goodwill and carry loving-kindness because of his grace…

In most Episcopal churches, there's something called an “aumbry” as we have, or a "tabernacle" which is a portable version of an aumbry. A tabernacle is usually large, ornate, and sits on a table under the sanctuary lamp, which is lit whenever there is reserved sacrament in it.

I tell you this because there is a reason we have those. As John’s gospel tells us , the Word of God, the true light, ‘tabernacled’ among us. The word translates from Hebrew as, "he pitched his tent," and it means he chose to live among us. The tabernacle in the church, therefore, is a manifest, symbolic form of the theological concept of the Incarnation of Christ.

The prophet Isaiah says we are clothed in the garments of salvation, and then describes something very beautiful and jeweled - which is the origin of the idea for constructing a box to hold the consecrated elements. It's beautiful - decked out with garlands and jewels – and that’s how we can see ourselves. It’s how God sees us – all of us.

We are the crown of beauty in the hand of God; beautiful, bejeweled tabernacles of God here on the earth. We are adorned and adored by God who created us and sustains us by infusing us with God’s own spirit.

As our gospel reminds us, we carry the divine spirit within us. And if we are willing to use the power God has chosen to give us, then what can stop the transformation of the world by God through us?

My beloved Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said: “When you know how much God is in love with you then you can only live your life radiating that love.” (Meditations from a Simple Path, Ballantine Books, NY, 1996, 53.)

This is exactly what we prayed in our Collect today. As tabernacles of God, let’s pray it again now together…. Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Eve: Participants in redemption

Lectionary: Isaiah 9:2-7, Psalm 96, Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14(15-20)

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

Merry Christmas Eve!

We gather together this evening to joyfully receive the gift of our Redeemer, to collectively behold him with sure confidence of his love for us and his purpose for our lives. Having prepared ourselves for this during Advent, we stand together now ready to be reborn with him, as daughters and sons of God.

It is truly a joyful moment - for us and for the whole world. The reason is, we are not passive observers in this Christmas story, or in the continuing plan of redemption. We are active participants.

You see, we aren’t here today simply to recount the stories of our faith, or to re-tell the first chapter of the greatest story ever told. We’re here to live it into present reality - again.

Each of us is alive and breathing and here in this moment because God chooses it. God has a purpose for us as individuals and as community.

Luke’s gospel narrative demonstrates this for us through Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds. They show us how doing our part requires us to trust God’s love for us, to trust God’s plan completely, and to go wherever God sends us.

Mary could have said, ‘No’ to the angel Gabriel’s invitation to bear the Christ in her body, knowing that she could have been stoned to death for adultery according to Jewish law; knowing the public shaming her pregnancy would bring her – but she didn’t. She told the angel Gabriel that she would do whatever God asked of her. By giving not only her ‘Yes,’ but her body and her life to God, Mary participated with God in the redemption of the world.

Being a righteous man, Joseph, who was a descendant of the great King David, could have said, I won’t submit myself to the public shame Mary’s condition will bring to me.’ He could have said, ‘No, I won’t go register. I won’t participate in this unfair, unholy, earthly institution which will feed the monster Roman government that occupies our land. He could have said that, but he didn’t. Instead, he walked 90 miles to Bethlehem with his pregnant girlfriend to register at the census. By doing so, Joseph publicly and legally claimed Jesus as his son, legitimating him and Mary according to earthly institutions.

Joseph’s journey also fulfilled what had been prophesied: that the Messiah would be born of the house of David in the city of Bethlehem. By going where God sent him, Joseph participated with God in the redemption of the world.

As the Christmas story unfolded for Mary and Joseph, it brought one degradation after another, culminating with their inability to find a decent place to lodge. We traditionally translate this problem as “no room at the inn” but a better translation, a truer translation is: “no room in the guest quarters.” (New Interpreter’s Study Bible, Abingdon Press, 1855.)

It may have been that there really was no room. The census would have brought lots of visitors to Bethlehem all at once. But given the shameful circumstance of Mary’s condition it was more likely that Joseph’s family simply wouldn’t admit them into their homes and the only place made available to them was the space where the animals were kept – a serious insult to the holy family.

In the big picture, however, the Word became Incarnate to reconcile the whole world to God. So even his place of birth demonstrates that truth that the poor, the judged, and those excluded from civilized treatment on earth are given a place of honor in God’s plan of redemption.

Which brings us to the shepherds, the first to hear of this world-changing event. The shepherds were as lowly as the manger that held the infant Messiah. The angel told the shepherds that the Messiah of God had been born in Bethlehem. After they had thought about it awhile, the shepherds decided to heed the angel’s directive to go see for themselves.

The shame they bore? It was who they were: shepherds. They were dirty, smelly, not allowed to go into the place of worship, and not likely to be welcomed into the presence of, “civilized” people. That didn’t stop them, though. Despite the potential for rejection, the shepherds went to Bethlehem, found the baby, and made known what they had seen and been told – and everyone was amazed by what they said. Everyone. By speaking their truth despite the risk of rejection, the shepherds participated with God in the redemption of the world.

But these events took place two millennia ago. What does it mean for us today?

In his book, “Jesus Today” Dominican priest, Albert Nolan, says this: “On the whole, we don’t take Jesus very seriously… by and large we don’t love our enemies, we don’t turn the other cheek, we don’t forgive seventy times seven times, we don’t bless those who curse us, we don’t share what we have with the poor...” (Jesus Today, Orbis Books, xvii).

Why don’t’ we? Nolan suggests that many of us believe that these are great ideals, but that actually doing them “isn’t very practical in this day and age.”

Well, I think Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds might have said the same thing in their day, don’t you? Following Jesus has never been practical. Never. It isn’t supposed to be – because following Jesus is revolutionary! And that is why we’re here today.

We are the body of Christ in the world today and our purpose is to do our part, participating with God in the redemption of the world. We are all Mary, giving our “yes,” offering our bodies, our souls, and our lives to God. We are all Joseph, going where God sends us. And we are all the shepherds, proclaiming the truth we know despite the risk of rejection. We do it because the world aches to hear the good news of great joy which we have to share.

Ours is the greatest story ever told and we’ve been chosen by God to live it into present reality. Then it will be as Jesus taught us to pray it: on earth as it is in heaven.

Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace to all whom God favors – because God favors all whom God has made.

May it be so and may we all do our part in the redemption of the world. Amen.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Advent 4 C, 2018: The radical faith of Mary

Lectionary: Micah 5: 2-5a; Canticle 15; Hebrews 10: 5-10; Luke 1:39-55

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Lectionary: Micah 5: 2-5a; Canticle 15; Hebrews 10: 5-10; Luke 1:39-55

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

As many of you know, Mary has been an important part of my spiritual life since I was a little child. Mary has been a constant presence, strength, and inspiration for me as I have grown in age and spirit. She has truly been for me, theotokos, the God-bearer, bringing Christ into my life and experience in very real ways.

These experiences taught me that I, too, am a God-bearer. We all are. The Spirit of Christ dwells in each of us, sanctifies us, and calls us to bear that into the world – each in our own way, in very real ways, according to God’s plan.

The Church’s teachings about Mary – whether or not she herself was conceived without sin and whether or not she conceived Jesus as a virgin or by her husband – have been a source of disagreement and debate throughout our history. For Episcopalians, belief in the doctrines of the immaculate conception, and the virgin birth are certainly accepted but not required.

The non-Scriptural traditions about Mary paint her as meek, mild, and pure (meaning untouched by sin or sexuality). Have they read the Scripture?

There’s an online argument going around right now about the Christmas song, “Mary did you know?” It’s a lovely song, but like so many songs, it’s theology is way off the mark. Of course Mary knew…

And she was anything but meek or mild. Mary was radically strong and faithful. And she spoke out when needed – remember her asking for wine at the wedding at Cana?

She was, however, pure – not in the patriarchal, puritanical sense, but in the faithful sense. To be pure is to be undistracted, to be completely in line with God and God’s will.

In today’s gospel from Luke, Mary leaves her hometown “with haste” and goes out to the country to stay with her kinswoman Elizabeth. This is something unmarried pregnant women have done throughout the ages, isn’t it?

Elizabeth, who is too old to have a child greets Mary who is too young to have a child – and yet, both are pregnant. Elizabeth is six or seven months by now and Mary must flee the shame of her condition so both women benefit from the visit.

What strikes me about this story is that when Elizabeth sees Mary she welcomes her, calling her and the illegitimate baby in her womb “blessed.” Think how radical this was! And that’s just the beginning of a very radical gospel story.

When Elizabeth sees Mary, even the child in her womb rejoices. In this moment, Elizabeth recognizes and proclaims that the baby within Mary is her Lord, her Kyrios. Radical!

The first prophetic proclamation about Jesus – and it was made by an old woman. Radical!

Elizabeth calls Mary blessed for Mary’s belief that God would fulfill God’s promises. Mary responds to Elizabeth’s greeting (which must have been a bit of a relief) with her Magnificat – her prayer of praise. Please take special note of Mary’s prayer as it outlines the theology this Jewish mother will teach her son as he grows up in the faith.

Mary’s Magnificat reflects her tradition, being grounded in the Song of Hannah which is found in 1 Samuel (2:1-10). In her hymn of praise Hannah speaks about God’s promises being fulfilled in the deliverance of enemies, warriors’ bows being broken, the hungry being filled, the barren having children, the dead being brought to life – all by the strength of God.

Mary begins her song of praise with a proclamation of her welcoming of God’s joy into her life as well as her body. Then she paints a fuller picture of God praising first God’s mercy, then God’s strength.

What Mary’s Magnificat makes clear, affirming her tradition, are the reversals of the world order God will work: that those who believe they have power, those in the center of worldly power, whose focus is on themselves and not their neighbors, will be brought down and the lowly, those on the fringe, will be raised up. Those who hunger will be filled by God, which means they will be in the presence of God; while those who are rich, that is, who rely on what they think are their own resources and abundance, will find themselves sent away and empty. The will experience nothingness on all levels.

The conclusion of Mary’s Magnificat is one of the most hope-filled prayers in Scripture: God has remembered God’s promise of mercy. It is an eternal promise made to our forebears and to our children – forever.

So much of the current Christian world is focused on a god who metes out justice with violent, angry power; coercing people into line with threats of pain and destruction. Mary, and Hanna before her, offer us a different picture of God, truer to all of Scripture. Mary proclaims that mercy will precede and follow God’s justice; that God will help God’s people which includes raising up the poor and hungry and scattering the proud in their conceit.

Hannah mentions the deliverance of enemies. God doesn’t bring down the mighty and scatter the proud just because God is bigger and stronger but because God desires the salvation of all; and while the powerful focus on their own strength and resources, they forget God. But God does not forget them and acts to redeem them.

Isaiah spoke of mountains being brought down and valleys being raised up. Mary and Hannah affirm this in their hymns. The end result is a level field where all are equal: equally loved, cared for, respected, and made for a purpose. No one is ‘better than’ or on the fringes. All are one in the love of God… in the presence of God who feeds them beside still waters with a feast that originates in the foundation of the world.

As this season of Advent draws to a close, I pray we, like Mary, welcome the joy of God into our lives and our bodies as God continues to work for the salvation of the whole world. I pray we, like Mary, truly believe in the fulfillment of God’s promises of help, mercy, and justice.

Magnify our souls like Mary’s was, O Lord, and may our spirits rejoice in God our Savior. For God has looked with favor on us, his lowly servants, and from this day all generations will call us blessed. The Almighty has done great things for us and holy is his name. Amen.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Advent 3C, 2018: Trust and adjust

Lectionary: Zephaniah 3:14-20; Canticle 9; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:7-18

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

Today is the third Sunday of Advent, known as Rose or Gaudete Sunday. The word 'gaudete' comes from the Latin and we translate it as “rejoice” but it means 'to welcome and to be filled with joy.' On this Sunday then, we make an intentional choice to welcome the joy God is waiting to give us – joy that anticipates the redeeming love of God; joy that trusts that nothing is impossible with God.

Our Collect today is an intriguing one. Let’s take a look at it again for a moment: Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever.

This prayer reminds us that sometimes we all need a hero; someone who has the power to make things different… better; to relieve us of fear or discomfort, or to restore justice where there is none. Sometimes we just need to know there is power out there that can set right whatever has gone wrong.

What intrigues me about this Collect is this phrase: …because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us… If sin is separation where there should be relationship, division where there should be union, disruption where there should unity; then the power of God that restores us is bountiful grace and mercy.

When we talk about God as Almighty, this is what it means. We may use metaphors of earthly power, as Zephaniah did, calling God a “warrior who gives victory” but let’s not overlook how God then describes what that victory. Speaking through the prophet God promises to rejoice over us with gladness, renew us in God’s love, exult over us with singing, redeem disaster, deal with our oppressors, save the lame, gather the outcast, and change our shame to praise. This is what victory looks like, and it is cause to rejoice.

Paul affirms this in his letter to the Philippians saying, Rejoice. Rejoice because “the Lord is near.” Paul reminds us that we need not worry about anything. When we stay in relationship with God, which we do through prayer, we are assured that all will be well, as Dame Julian of Norwich says, and our assurance feels like peace – peace in our bodies, our minds, and our spirits. Peace that makes no sense, because it is a peace that trusts completely in God, whose power of abundance grace and mercy leads us to victory, the victory we just heard described in Zephaniah.

So, we rejoice. We welcome God’s joy and let it fill us to overflowing whereupon it spills into the world.

What, then, do we make of the Gospel reading from Luke? How does this story fit the Gaudete imperative to rejoice? How did his followers hear John the Baptist’s words as good news? How do we?

John’s essential message was: change the way you’re thinking, acting, and believing because the Messiah of God is coming – and it won’t be what you think. In fact, it turned out it wasn’t what John the Baptist thought either, as we hear later when he hesitates to baptize Jesus and then even later, when he sends a messenger to ask Jesus, “are you the one we’ve been waiting for or should we wait for another.”

That’s the way it is with faith. We can’t be certain in any moment, but we can trust the big picture and adjust ourselves to it as it is revealed.

John the Baptist know that the long-awaited Messiah was coming. He knew that he was the herald of that Messiah. He knew that God’s people needed to repent, to change the way they lived, thought, and believed because the Messiah was bringing the Spirit’s renewing fire. But even he didn’t know how radically different God’s plan was going to be from his own expectations.

None of us does – something to keep in mind as we journey together through this interim time. Here’s what we do know though, and it is reason to rejoice: We know that God rejoices over us with gladness, renews us in divine love, exults over us with singing, redeems every single disaster we confront, and deals with our oppressors (so we don’t have to). We know that God heals the lame, gathers in all who are outcast, and changes our shame to praise.

Thomas Merton once said: “You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.”

The way we measure our faithfulness in this endeavor is to honestly observe: Is there separation among us where there should be relationship? Division where there should be union? Disruption where there should unity?

Do we experience the peace that surpasses all understanding? If not, then we might let this Gaudete Sunday be our opportunity to choose to rejoice – to welcome the joy of God and let it fill us to overflowing. Think of the pool of joy this community of faith might be standing in if we all chose to do this together… today.



A holy, transforming Advent

“Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” (Mt 24:42)

The familiar Advent theme of keeping awake derives from apocalyptic literature about the end of times – a common fear among humans found in most cultures throughout history. For Christians, however, the feared judgment has already happened -- and it was redemption. God chose to come among us as Jesus, the Christ, who is always coming, always redeeming.

This is the Good News we share: that there is no longer anything to fear about our personal deaths or the end of the world as we know it, so we can turn our attention instead to living this apocalyptic truth from Jesus: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (Jn 10;10)

God knows, our humanity guarantees that there will be times we’re proceeding through life as if in a slumber. A common example is when we eat a meal with friends only to discover that the food on our plates is gone and we hardly remember eating it. Also, sometimes when we drive, we suddenly “wake up” and realize we’re much farther along in our trip than we’d realized.

These are natural occurrences and are a testament to how elegantly designed we are by God. There is a biologic state in between waking and sleeping called the hypnogagic state which scientists are just now beginning to study more closely. “Hynogogia tends to be experienced as if we were passive observers.” (Source) Jesus goes right to this in his call for us to wake up.

The problem is not, then, that we fall into this slumber, but when we get stuck in it. When we can’t or won’t “wake up” out of fear or a sense of powerlessness or worthlessness. When that happens, it points to a rift in our relationship with our Creator and we risk going through the motions of our lives as passive observers rather than as active, beloved participants with the Divine..

Advent calls us to wake up fully, to breathe in deeply, to re-orient ourselves and shake off the slumber so that we can get going again. We have been invited to participate with God in the work of redemption; chosen as partners, just as Mary and Joseph were two millennia ago.

Doing so takes preparation – intentional, prayerful, continuing preparation. That is the purpose and the goal of the season of Advent. Advent gives us the opportunity to quiet the chaos of the season as the culture experiences it and make space in our souls and our lives for God, so that the amazing event we await – the coming of the Christ - has the opportunity to have its transforming effect on us. We do this by making time for quiet reflection and prayer; allowing ourselves to enter the peace, touch the mystery, and be in the Presence of God.

God bless us all as we practice a holy, transforming Advent.

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.