Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent 1 2011

Marc is the first one there. I ask him to put on some beautiful music as I go to get the bulletins.  Then Amy arrives. Then a visiting couple. Maria is back from Puerto Rico. And one of the Sweatshop Free workers has come to sit with Hope. 
I remind folks that just a year ago, we were still outside the gates, the big iron gates still closed off our sanctuary. We sang on the steps and then came inside. We sing some of the same songs, God Welcomes All, Strangers and Friends; Emmanuel, O Come, O Come Emmanuel; Ven Emmanuel...And just in time, Arcadia arrives with purple Advent candles. And I talk to the children about Advent. 
I say that our song Sanctuary is a good Advent song. About preparation. Preparing ourselves to be a place where the Chirst child can be born, can live. How the song traveled from us to West End to the Jewish congregation Romemu to Jane and her Sanctuary congregation. 
Our Scriptures today are Isaiah 64: 1-9 and Mark 13: 24-37. And I ask, So where are we at the beginning of this Advent season, 2011? Bill Wylie-Kellerman tells us  that Isaiah's prayer has the smell of exile all over it: a sanctuary ruined, a dream too long deferred, and a people trying to remember who in hell they are. Is God absent or are they absent-minded? Who has abandoned whom?
Then I say that Isaiah accuses God of anger, absence and alienation  (Laurel Dykstra)  “[F]or you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity” (Isaiah 64:7).
And I have to ask, Does any of that feel familiar?
Advent is a time to remember, to re-member, to reclaim who we are...namely, children belonging to God...
How do we do that? One answer is intercession, being in solidarity with solidarity with, as Paul says it, all that groans.... Bonhoeffer writes that to intercede is to feel another's need so deeply that you simply pray their prayer. 
And we pray for disruption...a break in the expected, in the what is...and you recognize it when it happens....a tearing of the heavens, a break with business as usual, the world of occupy... This rupture is an act of hope..
Jesus’ picture of Advent includes darkened skies and falling least one commentator says that Jesus was talking about the falling of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt...
We cannot be overly romantic about Occupy... the social worker who stayed with us says that of our guests 1/3 are  idealistic students, 1/3 lost souls, and 1/3 hardcore homeless...but friends, so it is with every revolution...
Coordinated evictions, undercover cops, destroyed books, self censured press coverage, all tells me that  someone is taking this seriously...And reminds me that  the forces of domination will ALWAYS fight to hold onto power...
To affirm that God is working out salvation regardless of how hopeless the present seems almost impossible. How do we do it?
One answer, resistance...Last Friday was Black Friday, the day stores hope to sell so much that they will be back in the black.  Did you see the stories of people camping out,waiting?  Occupy Walmart? Bestbuy? Of the woman who used pepperspray on a rival shopper? This day has become for Sojourners Don’t Buy Anything day. It reminds me of our own Rev. Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping Now...
The break comes with the hope that things can and will change. The break comes with the painful trauma of crying out in our utter frustration and despair with things as they are. That our limited human vision can be broken open to the hope that comes from beyond ourselves, the possibility that crashes through impossibility.  (Conrad Hoover)
All it needs is a glimpse of possibility...Like when I give tours of the church, those over 30 say  O my God with  sense of despair. Those  under 30, the same O my God...only with possibility...
All this talk of end times. My friend Father Dufell always reminds us that We face our own apocalypse...But for us now, it literally is a do or die time.(How many times have we been there?) ..We feel the frustration, disapointment, sense of absence...sense of we did our best, have been abandoned...
The potter and clay. Can we hear that in a corporate sense?..As a we?..What would it truly take to be a we....
Could the Potter who formed the cosmos be taking any less care, just now, forming the community of faith for the work of wholeness and harmony we call shalom or salaam? Within that kairos ( a time of disruption, of breaking in)  community—and because of it, for countless others—we will rise or fall together. (Roth)
As the prophet says, Thou meetest those that joyfully work righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways (Isaiah 64:4-5).
And above and beyond all else, as we awake, we awake to a story of LOVE. 
And so, what are we to do?
  1. Resist
  2. Intercede, and in the end, just as our motto says, 
  3. Just love....
You/we will decide...what will be....
(Many ideas for today’s sermon were insired by Sojourner’s Preaching the Word )
The Session gathers. After discussion, our agreement with Jane is passed. And we discuss the proposla from Noche Flamenca and also the Cordoba Initiative. For one moment, I feel like we are going to make it. 
I go to tell Jane the good news. Her choir is getting ready. 
On my way home, I stop across the street and welcome the Christmas tree people back. Pascal is back again. This year, I tell them, we have restrooms. And WiFi. They are welcome. And heat is on its way. I pass Victor and the Saigon Grill strikers as they leave the picket line. Chanted sounds of a Jewish funeral come from inside the funeral home. It is a beautiful day.  Advent has begun.

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