Dec 15 2017

A Psalm for Advent

(Inspired by Isaiah 64:1-9, Mark 13:24-37, and Luke 1:47-55)

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O, that You would tear open the heavens and come down, O heavenly Source of LIfe! Make wondrous new creation out of our increasingly dark chaos, where hate is masquerading as a distorted love, even while the honest love of neighbor — and thus the love of You — is considered subversive, called “terrorist” in its nonviolence. Entire peoples have been bullied, and buried, their humanity denied. In this present midnight, declare once again, “Let there be light!”, and have Your Light shine through the shroudedness and never be overcome. And if the sword of Your truth cuts deep and close to home, so be it.

Yes, tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains and all who would deign to stand upon their summits will quake at Your presence, and that each of the nations — including this one — will shudder before You and Your justice. Grant this Advent that each of us will feel the seismic movement of Your unsettling, affirming, encompassing, saving love not only in the ground underneath our feet but in the depth of our hearts and souls where the dividing line between good and evil runs like an unmarked boundary; and where so much that is divine and precious has already been planted and begun to bear fruit. Spirit us as You have spirited the brooding waters! Hear this prayer, O God! To pray for less would be to ignore that now is the time of Your advent. For we know, we trust, that You will not be mocked.

We are Your people, Your Beloved, and in both our temerity and our ambivalence, we claim that identity. So we submit ourselves again as the clay in Your Potter’s hands. Shape us to be a receiving and a thankful people, crafted so that we in Your image might ultimately be a poured-out people! Release us to be Your repentant community, even now. You do not remember iniquity forever. So loosen our insistent grip on it, we pray. There are life-giving changes we claim we want to see in the world around us. O Inspirer, give us the courage to make those changes first in ourselves and in our lives right now as a sign of Your sovereignty in our lives and Your living power for transformation. Don’t let us wait a moment longer!

With our ancestors You did awesome things they did not expect: the collapse of an empire of pyramids, the delivery of a family of slaves, Your family, so seeming powerless in the face of bluster and might, and yet delivered. It was You who regarded their children, it was You who honored their promise when the world did not. And it was You that shepherded the whole complaining lot of them into a new future where Your priorities were meant to reign. Do no less with us!

I was reading the New Testament and in the first chapter of Mark’s gospel it said: “And just as he was coming up out of the water he saw the heavens torn apart, and the Spirit of God descending on him like a dove . . .” Lord Jesus, you were the answer to my prayer before it was even prayed. Any barrier between heaven and earth was removed long, long ago in Your coming: a tender life to turn the world upside down from within. You saw God’s forgotten children; You poured out mercy; You stoked the imagination of peace while confusing the proud; You brought down the powerful and lifted the lowly ; You healed; You taught us that God’s love for us was unbreakable. And when death reasserted its right to build a barrier to God’s reign once again, Holy Love raised You from death’s grip and set human history on a radically different path. May we claim that path this season!

There are signs: the reckonings, the awful but important reckonings about pervasive sexual predation, about the legacy of racial prejudice, about greed and dishonesty and theft from the poor, about nuclear weapons—Your Light illuminating all of it clearly in our darkness. We realize these are signs of the ripening fig tree. “This generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.” Here we are, Lord.

Jesus, as we gather this morning You bid us, “Keep awake!” I humbly pray that I am woke. I pray that this community, so full of love and compassion and goodness, might have our God-given wits about us, too.

Open us to share the gifts You have given us in such abundance; grant that we do it gladly and boldly, for we have been made for this. Grant us the industry to pour out our sweat for justice, to train ourselves in the ministry of attention and listening, to be bold enough to initiate forgiveness with one another as You have already done with us. Have this be a time when we risk new beginnings, free of burdens we have carried forever and grievances that have ground us to dust. Enable us to engage others in the Feast of joy You prepare at Your Table and in the midst of our lives, and to discover anew gifts of endless love and a much deeper peace. (1)

Tune my heart, Lord, to your Way, to your music. As Your follower I can receive instruction. I can be the student You wish me to be, the witness, the brother to all sisters and brothers in your family, the careful listener, the one who creates safe space and honors it, and yes, the voice that rises when the silence is deafening. Help me to see the beauty in me; help us all to see it in us, to know it and not deny it.

This Advent, just as Mary once became aware of the growing life within her– the peace and love and joy and hope coming to fruition– may You grow within the womb of this congregation, inaugurating once again Your kingdom come and with You, Your will be done. (2)

Pastor Scott

***This is the printed version of Pastor Scott’s sermon for the First Sunday in Advent.

(1) This paragraph was stoked (and informed) by Ted Loder’s Advent Prayer, “Gentle Us Open” in Loder, T. (2000). My Heart in My Mouth. Philadelphia, PA: Innisfree Press.
(2) I read something as I was preparing this message that compared Mary’s carrying of the new life of God’s Child with theGod-given life a congregation is carrying within us, waiting to be born into the world. A wonderful image. I would cite it—but can’t find the note!


Pastor Scott’s Archived E-pistles