Monday, December 3, 2012

Advent 1 C - Dec 2, 2012

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Andrew Colquhoun, OHC
Advent 1 C - Sunday, December 2, 2012

Jeremiah 33:14-16
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Luke 21:25-36
The Monastery's Advent wreath with greenery from our grounds;
pine, spruce, holly and red-barked dogwood.
When I was a youngster – up through first year of college, I tried to be a fundamentalist. I could talk about the plan of salvation, the four spiritual laws, wallowed in the inerrancy of Scripture and looked for God to clear up all the chaos that was in my life. Seemed like a good idea at the time. But some of Scripture just didn’t make sense if I took it literally. Seven heads and ten horns…what would that look like? Total destruction except for people in a boat? Evolution was too fascinating and believable. And I couldn’t hold on to all that assurance. If God had a plan for my life set from before I was born, it wasn’t working very well and why was he keeping it a secret? Bit by bit, I changed direction and began the walk into freedom and an awareness of a God who isn’t unbending, who hasn’t stoked the fires of hell for anybody who hasn’t said the right formula to be saved. It’s a long walk.

It’s a long walk because I’m afraid most of us don’t want that kind of freedom or indeed, can bear that kind of love. It’s much simpler just to throw everything on to God and for me to bear no responsibility – just to believe.

We proclaim a God with attributes that are of the Gospel. We say that God is loving; God is forgiving; God watches over us; God will protect us and the people we love. When God comes up in conversation that’s the God we talk about. Especially, at this time of year when we are surrounded with carols in the shops and “Away in the Manger” is juxtaposed with “Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas” and the Little Drummer Boy just keeps beating his damn drum. But except for sensory overkill and a generally frazzled feeling, most of us are quite happy during these days of preparation.

Yet the lectionary for Advent is unsettling. What is with all these doom and gloom readings? Are they predictions of punishment? Does “watching” really mean “watch out?” There’s a road sign on the single lane roads in Scotland that says “Beware of sheep!” Is it safe to turn your back on a God who brings all these things? Within us we seem to believe in a God who punishes in pretty cruel ways. Our talk says “No” but deep inside I’m afraid that’s the God I may believe in.

It is a striking thing to me that when Jesus gives us a choice of two things, we seem to glom on to the harder of the two. “Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven…” why do we choose to focus on the binding and not the freeing? For I think most do go for that option. Certainly the much of the Church seems to.

And when tragedy strikes, why do we try to affix blame? It’s women bishops or gays or socialists or Big Business or welfare recipients who brought it on – whatever the “it” may be. It’s Black Friday; it’s legalized marijuana; it’s whatever seems not to fit my expectation of what is decent or moral.

But what we are truly saying when we express such opinions is that we believe in a God who is capricious and vindictive. We believe in a God who made us and who waits with bated breath for us to mess up before we are blown away or burned in hell. And, friends, that is sinful. That’s idolatry. That’s worshipping a false God. That’s not the God revealed in Jesus.

I can find nowhere in Scripture an instance where catastrophe is not countered with promise of restoration. Exile and the desert wandering always point to the Promised Land. Wars and rumors of war always indicate the coming of the Son of Man. The prophets warn us but point us to return to our God who seeks. Jesus says that when bad things happen, look for the Son of Man, God in the midst of the heartache and struggle – right there – not absent. God with us.

Maybe that’s what’s frightening. Maybe this Advent, in the aftermath of Sandy and the bitterness of the political campaign, in the exhibition of the boys in government strutting in contest over the fiscal cliff, may be what we really fear is that Christ will come and speak the Word that will not pass away.

Maybe Jesus is not talking of a distant future but today – today messed up as it is may be may turn out to be the time. Today may be the day when He calls us to cease all wars, to feed the hungry, to cherish the abused and terrified children, the degraded women, the demeaned Gays and Lesbians. To give the barefoot beggar some shoes. To turn to our neighbors in love whether here on in Afghanistan or Israel or Palestine or Uganda.

We get glimpses – after disasters people open their hearts and wallets to help. It’s when things get back to normal that we slide back into indifference or worse.

And so, Advent is a time of expectation, of longing.

Maybe the expectant One; the One who is longing most is God.

Watching for us.

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