December 4, 2022
Advent 2A – George Yandell
I offer you an exercise, a thought experiment. You may close your eyes. Recall your favorite childhood memory from the days leading up to Christmas.// Did you keep peering under the tree, hoping presents would appear? Did you add figures to the crèche as the days drew nearer? Did your family light an Advent wreathe to mark the passing days? What was it like for you? Do you remember what you felt? //
As adults, has anything changed? Ha ha. What do we anticipate now? Is it family gatherings? A feast? Do some of us anticipate sadness at losses that are accentuated near Christmas? The adult preparation for Christmas is often doing for others rather than ourselves, isn’t it? That gets lots closer to the scripture passages for today than our childhood anticipation.
Centuries before John the Baptist appeared, the Prophet Isaiah described a time of universal peace under the rule of an ideal king (Is. 11:1-5). Over time, Christians came to associate this figure with Jesus. This Messianic king was to be a descendant of David, the son of Jesse-hence the reference to a green shoot springing to life out of a stump.
The image of a stump here also conveys the strength and humility of Israel in contrast to the imperial arrogance of the Assyrians (“majestic trees”) that the Lord will cut down (Is. 10:33-34). This king will be filled with God’s Spirit and endowed with wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. His delight will be in the Lord, and he will reign with justice and equity for the poor and the meek. Rather than his wearing the trappings of imperial office, “righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins”.
Creation itself will be transformed in the Messiah’s age of reconciliation. The images of verses 6-9 describe life as originally intended in Eden, with animals and humans living in harmony, and where the weak do not fear the strong. This peaceful kingdom on God’s “holy mountain” will become a reality because “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord” (v. 9). This spirit of peace will extend throughout the world as the nations turn to the Messianic king (v. 10). [The above 3 paragraphs adapted from Synthesis for Dec. 2013]
These prophetic images were about God doing for God’s people what they desperately needed. And God’s people were to be open and caring to all the others of the world, working compassion and justice with and for them.
What was John up to at the Jordan? As Matthew says: “All the region streamed out to him, and they were baptized, admitting their sins.” He called out, “Change your ways because Heaven’s imperial rule is closing in.” Scholars have said John was the hinge-point of salvation history, the greatest and last of the prophets of Israel. He was conducting a massive sacrament, leading people through the Jordan, baptizing them, leaving sins behind, entering the promised land anew as a forgiven people. He was reenacting the Exodus, leading the people of Israel again into God’s kingdom. The one Isaiah had foretold was coming. And those John baptized were ready.
Provocatively, John offered people baptism apart from the temple– very important- he was taking the place of the priests in declaring people’s sins washed away. The temple was no longer the center for those people- they participated in a prophetic act. And he said it would be violent when God comes- God will do to the Romans what they had done to Judea.
“What crossing the Rubicon was to a Roman citizen, or what storming Bunker Hill is to an American citizen, the entering of the land from the eastern bank of the Jordan river was to an Israelite,” writes Brad Munroe [at firstprespueblo.org.] He points out that John’s desert location must have been both provocative and tantalizing—one for which no Israelite could possibly have missed the symbolism. They were preparing for an explosive visit from God. God was indeed promising freedom for a beleaguered people. But the joy of restoration and rest was not yet theirs. And indeed, even today the desert speaks to us of isolation, physical challenge, alienation, and parched spirits. Real dangers lurk there.
We too are often in deserts ourselves. Christmas can accentuate the divides among us, the losses we have suffered. As we anticipate the promised kingdom, the common-wealth of Christ, we need to recall that we too have crossed the Jordan, been baptized, and are now God’s tenants in God’s world. We have died with Christ and been raised up out of the Jordan in new life. That’s the promise of Advent. The coming commonwealth of God is near.
The hallmark of our anticipation, and John the baptizer’s, is reverence. Holy awe like John’s as he beheld the Lamb of God. We sorely lack this reverence. One only need drive the highways or walk the shopping malls. No one seems to be awe-filled, being gently still, expecting the holy. Expecting the holy moves us to respect and kindness toward all of life- and toward ourselves, for we are the ones God created to love.
It believe for us that Advent and Christmas can be about mystical re-union of our opposites– reunion of our childhood thrill and anticipation with our adult knowledge of pain and loss. Reunion of the youthful love of getting with the mature love of giving. I intend to seek some quiet in the coming days and remember those I love but see no longer. And I intend to embrace with gusto those I love as they appear in different stages over the coming weeks and tell them how much I love them. And wait once again for celebrating of the mystery- the mystery of God come to us.
November 27, 2022
1st Sunday of Advent, Year A – Rev. Frank F. Wilson
This morning we exit the long season of Pentecost and begin a new season in the church – the season that we call Advent. Advent, as we all know, is the first season of the new church year. Advent is sort of the preamble to all that we will attend to in terms of liturgy, Biblical texts, and themes throughout this new year.
You no doubt know that the word “advent” simply means “coming.” It is a word that anticipates something new,
November 20, 2022
Meditation Pledge Card Dedication Sunday – George Yandell
Four parallel stories in all four gospels are actually parallel miracles. Miracles of few loaves and fishes feeding 5,000 people. In John’s gospel account, Andrew speaks up to Jesus, says, “There is a lad here with five loaves and two fish; but what does that amount do for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down,” and he took the loaves, gave thanks, and passed them around with the fish to all the people sitting there.
November 13, 2022
Proper 28C – George Yandell
Here are some facts about a region known to many of you. Over a period of 200 years, at least 8 major events troubled this region. See if you can tell where it is.
- At the beginning of these 200 years, a series of major earthquakes rocked the region, killing untold numbers of peoples, devastating communities.
- There was intensive slavery, masters growing rich on the backs of their slaves.