Listening and Waiting for Peace
Second Sunday of Advent - Year B
December 7, 2008
Second Sunday of Advent - Year B
December 7, 2008
Let us pray: O God, beginning and end, by whose command time runs its course: bless our impatience, perfect our faith, and, while we await the fulfillment of your promises, grant us hope in your Word. Amen.
Melissa believed in the power of the spoken and sung word. It was not surprising given that she was a poet. In fact that was often how she solved the problems that inevitably turn up in the normal course of living. She would go to her favourite place - sometimes within the walls of her living space, and when the weather allowed, to a place only she knew about - a place where gentle breezes, fresh smells and the deafening sound of silence would inspire the muse to visit her.
The muse was visiting her this day, unbidden except by circumstance. She caught herself in a reverie that mixed a strange combination of hope and despair into a complicated web. It was winter time both in calendar time and in kairos time - a time of cold, shivers and hunkering down to survive. It was odd she pondered how the outside seasons could often reflect the inner temperament, but not all that odd, because Melissa was a poet.
The reverie this time, not an uncommon one, was both personal and universal. She was comparing in mythical fashion the way in which her life ran so differently from the way of the world. She had read the newspaper and despaired at most of what she saw there. Wars between nations. Violence among communities and between individuals. Concern in the financial world. A climate that seemed on a headlong journey towards disaster for so many. And yet her own life seemed not to reflect any of this. She couldn’t think of any enemies. Violence was not something she lived with. Her small bank account wasn’t much different than it had ever been, and money had never really been an issue for her anyway. She’d always figured something out. And what part could she claim in global climate change? She knew intellectually that it was a problem for everyone, but she also knew that she was doing her part simply by being who she was. Of course she had written lines in poems that spoke the bumper sticker in any number of ways. This poet knew that thinking globally and acting locally was just part of who she was.
Melissa wasn’t exactly sure how it happened that she had become a church goer. There were lots of things about her life that might have suggested something else. Poets were often pretty good about figuring out their spiritual needs. A bit of her spirit went into every word, every turn of phrase, every well crafted line and word picture that she wrote. She thought others might think that she of all people did not need to be with others to feed her soul. Many of her poems had spoken to the presence of the divine in her life and the world. She was simply in touch with her own spirit and the great spirit.
But she was a church goer. She went for the art. She went because there was a different language spoken in worship. She like many others, she thought, was attracted by the beauty of worship - or at least the promise of beauty. Sometimes it wasn’t beautiful at all, but even when it wasn’t there was a certain attractive earthiness to the experience. Brokenness could be experienced in more than one way, and where else can you express your brokenness in word and action and hear a word of forgiveness, unconditional love and blessing in practically the next moment.
Melissa had heard one time about a theological theory that really attracted her. The gospel of John starts this way: In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God. What if that were literally true? What if the word is God? What if God did not exist before the invention of word. After all can we describe God without language? Even to describe God as indescribable takes language - the Word - to do it.
She loved the mystery of those questions and the mystery and transcendence that was part of thinking about it. It was a bit like the mystery of how the world and her own life were so different. It was part of the mystery of life - a mystery that also attracted her to gather with a group of people at worship.
Melissa also loved the word as it was spoken, read and sung at worship. Poets are pleased by the work of other poets and where else could you gather in a public place on a weekly basis and hear ancient words crafted into English by translators, redactors, and interpreters in such a way that they still contained beauty, mystery and depth. Where else could you gather on a regular basis and sing the work of poets old and new - reflecting on the mystery of faith, the upside downness of God’s way as compared to the ways of the world and inviting people to consider ideas that were often deeply removed from the weekly tasks of living.
That was a lot to be thinking about in the few moments between when she sat down in her seat and the entrance of the choir signaling the formal beginning of worship. She was used to it because Melissa was a poet. Sometimes she never did quite come back from the day dream like reflections, or they coloured everything that happened on a particular day at worship. She just marked it up as another example of connection that was always a part of her understanding of the way in which God and the spirit were present in the world.
It was not unusual that this day’s theme for her own musings were connected with the planned theme. It was the second Sunday of advent - commonly known as Peace Sunday in the four part journey of Advent. Her thoughts about peace as experienced in her own life and peace in the world were not unique among the people at worship this day. Some had come seeking peace - as calm and a touch of serenity - in the midst of the social and commercial pressures of the season. Others had come in anything but a peaceful mood. Kids, ice covered windshields, and inattentive drivers had made the trip to be here anything but a calming experience.
But here they all were - gathered in community, despite the range of feelings and the variety of preparations that had been taken to get here. And there was something shared in common in being here together. Together they would all hear the words, the beautiful words, the evocative words: Comfort, comfort my people. It didn’t matter who they were written for. They speak to us, and it’s why I’m here Melissa thought.
It had been a good year for people who loved words and the hope they offered. An orator was about to be inaugurated as the American president. Even his somewhat opponent, the Republican vice-presidential candidate had stirred up people with her folksy style. Melissa could admire the power of words even if she did not admire the world view that gave rise to them. Born too late to hear Martin Luther King Jr. in real time she had taken the opportunity to look up I Have a Dream on YouTube and listen in awe and wonder at the power of those words and how they had come true in part in the events of late 2008.
Melissa listened as the beginning of Mark’s gospel was read. It was really about words too. Cousin John was preaching the word of repentance - turn around, change your lives, there is still time - to the people around him. “Listen” is what it all said to Melissa. “Listen” for signs of God’s coming. “Listen” for signs of God’s presence. “Listen” as part of the advent journey. In the beginning was the word. And the word was with God. And the word was God. Amen.