Exactly how much mayhem does one need to witness before concluding that something is terribly wrong? Daily headlines of extrajudicial killings of African-American citizens, war, mass migrations of persons fleeing from war, terrorist attacks in the name of God and the rude slander of persons by leading presidential contenders are enough to convince us that something is off balance. Right? But the fact is, Americans polarize into extremes and some, on the left, want to naively believe in the last superstition, progress (as Christopher Lasch wrote in his book, The True and Only Heaven). Or those on the right hunker down, double down and promote more violence as the solution to violence. It is a self-defeating proposition but logic is not a strong suit of the NRApocalyptic view of the world.
Enter the biblical narrative of Advent, which is to say, the coming of the Christ in our midst. This Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent. How much we need to hear this account again! The world is plunged into darkness. It is more than evident to anyone willing to put down their ideological playbook that human beings are sinners in need of a Redeemer. Don’t like the word “sin?” Try this: human beings are deeply alienated and in need of reconciliation. However we state the obvious, we would do well to begin our journey to a sanctuary of peace such is offered by our church. Not to the mall, clawing our way through crowds and the push-and-shove of consumer frenzy. Not to a party. But to the sanctuary of the Holy One who would speak to us again of peace and justice and a Redeemer.
See that field of shepherds? It is night. And it is night in more ways than one, for they are poor and live in the midst of a brutal Roman occupation. Set in the night sky is a star. That is a luminous symbol of Christ’s presence in our world as the dim tides of history and the inhumane plots of wicked persons blot out the light. The Gospel of John captures that scene in another way, saying, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (1:5)
This is the First Sunday of Advent. Let us take a step toward light, toward love and peace. ~See you Sunday.
Friday rain. With a week-end of more rain and the deluge of the wicked and the lost is upon us. First in slow drizzle and a myriad of betrayals. The drip, drip, dripping of half-truths and lies until soaked and chilled we are. Defiled and chilled.
You would be hard pressed to find an institution more intensely focused on symbols than the Roman Catholic Church. Its liturgy is a tapestry of symbols, ornate, beautiful, compelling, richly textured by all five senses. Hence, it is inconceivable that the pontiff did not know with whom he met and embraced in the person of Kim Davis. She is a symbol for the denial of human rights to Gay persons as Gov. George Wallace was a symbol of denial to full citizenship to African-Americans. In 1963, Gov. Wallace stood at the entrance of the University of Alabama, defying the federal government’s order to move and allow Black students entrance into the university. He refused and like Kim Davis, asserted legal arguments for defying the federal government’s order. Was his act an act of conscience? of course it was and like Kim Davis’ act of conscience, a misguided and corrupted conscience. That the pontiff met her in secret alerts us to the fact that he knew what she represents. Can you imagine the pontiff meeting with George Wallace soon after his blocking the school house door and offering the excuse that he meets with a lot of people? Please. This kind of excuse is an insult to our intelligence.
Once again we are subjected to the vile news that a man with a gun has shot down ten people and wounded tens of others. He apparently took glee in singling out Christians to kill. And yet, the Christian Right, the NRA and just good ole patriotic Americans feel no pang of conscience when something like this happens. We are defiled and chilled. This is The Mocking of Christ, as depicted by the Fifteenth Century artist, Matthias Grünewald. Look at who carries out this mockery in that painting. They are upright citizens, they are good old boys, they are the upright religious brigades. How awful. How shameful.
I have no political stratagem to offer. Just a lament and cry for God’s mercy in our lives and in our world. Today, find time to listen to a Kyrie. Get alone in a quiet place and pray. For we are a corrupted people whose hearts, like a branch infested by insects, are hollowed out. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.
Listen to Pastor Bledsoe’s sermon of June 21st, WE WILL NOT BE MOVED, a sermon in response to the terrorist attack on Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.
Emanuel: we stand with you and fervently pray for you.