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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Advent 2: Lobsters in the desert



12/8

It’s the second Sunday in Advent. I begin by playing a recording  of Lo How a Rose e’er Blooming. (Es is ein ros)Talk about how the old German song was the framing  device for Bread and Puppet’s Shatterer…This week as we light our candles, we sing  two verses of Barbara Lundblad’s new  version of O Come O come, emmanuel…

O come, o come Immanuel                                                                                                                                        
And bless each place your people dwell
Melt ev’ry weapon crafted for war
Bring peace upon the earth for evermore
Rejoice, rejoice! Take heart and do not fear,
God’s chosen one, Immanuel, draws near.

O come green shoot of Jesse, free
Your people from despair and apathy
Forge justice for the poor and meek
Grant safety for the young ones and the weak.
Rejoice, rejoice! Take heart and do not fear,
God’s chosen one, Immanuel, draws near.

And the theme for this week is hope….

Our first scripture is ISAIAH 11:1-10. We reflect on what’s being said. That the stump is like a cut off tree. A tree taken for dead. And a sprig of new life is bursting forth. (Like breaking through the concrete) I also pass around a copy of one  of Jonathan Hicks’ Peaceable Kingdom paintings. Remembering my cousin’s Pennsylvania Quaker meeting house with several of these. How I love the big, dumb, simple animals living in harmony. And beyond the Isaiahan vision imagery, in a Pennsylvania landscape, William Penn and friends meeting with Native Americans. I always wished I could enter into one of those paintings. A world to live in. Or into.


                                         The Peaceable Kingdom

(Although one of our members was particularly attracted to …with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked….5)

For me, it’s  ..They will not hurt or destroy 
on all my holy mountain 8 and that it is a universal vision not just for  a particular people.      

Romans picks up the theme of hope: 13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. And we talk about how hope is not optimism. Optimism is believing that every day in every way everything is getting better and better. On the other hand, Hope, as Jim Wallis has said, is believing in spite of  the evidence and having the courage to work to make the evidence change.

And so, as it is his week, we end with MATTHEW 3:1-12 and John the Baptist. That child of privilege, who left the tall steeple if the temple and his establishment family for  the wilderness. And that what it was about, the baptizing, was a radical critique of the state of the religious establishment that had gone in to collaboration with the occupying colonial power. That even the temple’s purifying baths, built by Herod were modeled on Roman baths. So the only appropriate action was the act of conversion, re-conversion, by entering into the ever flowing  waters of the Jordan.

His clothing  and dress like an Elijah. And his diet, locusts and wild honey, the simplest. (Although as Arcadia and John R pointed out, the Spanish reads langostas, IE, lobsterslobsters and wild honey. And we realize that lobsters and locusts are equally non-kosher.)

And that repentance means turning around, going in  a different direction.

So why does he attack the scribes and pharisees?
You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruit worthy of repentance

Is that any way to build a congregation? Is he questioning why they are there? Are they sincere? Or on a reconnaissance mission out to gather evidence? Like  when Homeland Security told me that they had intel embedded in West-Park’s Occupy contingent?

He is clear that being children of Abraham is nothing to be proud of. (like those who say..I’m proud to be a real American…) and that
God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 

And then he gets seriously radical:
Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
11“I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.

John’s expectation of the messiah is clear: It’s easy to see ourselves as the wheat and we know exactly who the chaff are and that they are about to get their just deserts. It’s the French Revolution. Frantz Fanon's  Wretched of the Earth. The Chinese Cultural Revolution.

But here is the truth: we all have wheat and chaff within us. The purpose of this season, this preparation is to find the chaff within ourselves and offer it up. Repentance. Turning around. Dealing with our own chaff.

We end with the canto de esperanza:

Dios de la esperanza danos gozo y paz! Al mundo en crisis habla tu verdad. Dios de la justicia mandanos tu luz,luz y esperanza en la oscuridad. Oremos por la paz, cantemos de tu amor, Luchemos por la paz, fieles a ti, Senor.

….fighting for the peace, faithful to you…

From Isaiah to John the Baptist to this Argentine folk song…fitting words for the Sunday following the death of Nelson Mandela. The work is still unfinished. But we sing a song of hope.



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