Sunday, December 04, 2005

December 11, 2005 - Year B - Advent 3

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Psalm 126 or Luke 1:47-55
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

Who am I? What fairy-tale archetype is emblematic of the arc of my experience? Is that the Grimm or Disney version? In what ways am I defined by my economic status? my vulnerability to propaganda about war? my participation in a meta-story within and beyond my obituary? my joy and sorrow with another's falling and rising?

We listen and listen and listen and between listenings decide.


  1. John 1:6-8, 19-28

    Witnessing is a strange and radical activity in a land made passive by a "Pox Americana".

    To give witness or testimony here is based on the Greek word "martyria" (yes, the word "martyr comes from this). At base this is "confirming something by referring to one's own experience."

    What have you experienced so directly and concretely that you would expect martyria to be about life – not death? Can you see it as "living fully in such a way that death is the outcome"? Bishop Munib Younan says that there are three necessary and equal components to martyria: word, deed, and suffering. To speak about an issue, but hypocritically not act upon it – to act upon a matter without educating others about it – or to simply inflict suffering upon one's self or others without proper justification and explanation are all incompatible with the concept of martyria. Indeed, to become a true martyr, one must contribute equally to "witnessing in word, witnessing in deed, and exposing oneself to danger, whatever the cost". If this "cost" so happens to be death, then one will have become a martyr. However, to simply kill one's self in a desperate act of hopelessness does not constitute martyria, but murder – a sin against God in all three Abrahamic faiths.

    If Bishop Younan's interpretation of "a theology of martyria" is correct, then it's about time more Christians step forward and offer themselves up as martyrs for a true and just resolution to the Palestinian Issue. excerpted from A Call for Christian Martyrdom]

    Our experience can also be described as what it is we turn our eye toward. To Set Our Hope on Christ, Study Guide for The Windsor Report from the Episcopal Church, USA addresses another issue that needs our witness as it addresses the question, "How can the holiness and faithfulness to which God calls us all be made manifest in human intimacy?" How will you live your experience of the sacredness and blessing of a variety of gender orientations among us?

    Where else are you witnessing to the light of your experience? Health care? Economic structures? Environment? War propaganda? and on through what seems an endless list of that which would cover the light of creation . . . . Where else are you, at least, supporting those who are so witnessing?

  2. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

    Test everything! Oh, how wearying to have one's demythologizer constantly on. Diogenes searched for honest folk. Jesus was alert for faith-ful ones. Ann Blair writes of another quest, Mosaic Physics and the Search for a Pious Natural Philosophy in the Late Renaissance.

    To test everything presumes being cynical or having something to test against. For the moment, discarding the voice of the cynic who tests everything and finds it always comes up short, lets look at this passage for a standard.

    How about constant rejoicing? Have you found someone who does this or in whom you see this capacity? How does this change you if you should find such a someone or if you never do?

    Same questions about constant praying?

    One search that commends itself by not being limited by what we already know of rejoicing and praying is that for persons open to change, those who do not quench a Spirit of new life. It may be that we don't need to parse things out about who has what, and to what degree they have it, in the present moment. It may be that we do need to develop that old educational approach of teaching how-to-learn rather than settling for teaching current information to pass a not-left-behind test.

    In some sense rejoicing and praying in conventional modes closes us to rejoicing and praying in each context. If you don't use a traditional prayer in a liturgical setting, is the prayer heard? If you don't use a standardized breathy, "Lord, just..." extemporaneous sounding prayer in an pentecostal setting, is the prayer heard? How many rejoicing and praying styles do you carry in your spiritual tool-belt? How much room do you have for a new one?

  3. Psalm 126 or Luke 1:47-55

    There seems to be a time for all things under heaven. Satisfied for the moment,? - hang on a bit and you'll have an opportunity to once again come face-to-face with suffering and need to yet again come to terms with it. Having great difficulty? - uno momento, it will all come 'round right in some valley of love and delight.

    Seedtime to harvest, powerful to lowly, hungry to full, weeping to joy. There are longer arcs and shorter ones, but they are none-the-less arcs of pendulum periodicity. These seem to go on with some timed frequency beyond our usual ken. Getting in tune with these arcs leads us to participate in them through some planned perturbation. Get ready to participate in moving your life arc and that of all of us together into a new phase. We do this by not acquiescing to our current state and not simply taking the opposite pole. Our call is to holding both arcs within ourselves, being the unity they have fractured from.

    Jesus leads us into the space between past promises and emerging mercy. Here we travel with GOD, as did Mary and Jesus and others, to bring to limited situations an expanded picture of options. In between we can find healings not bound by distance. In between we can find exemption from laws. In between we can find partnership, not patriarchy. In between we can find our rich selves emptied and our fallow selves cultivated once again. In between we can find a connection between our unique and our cultural selves.

    How would you describe the arcs you are between? Where between are you? Which way would you ordinarily be traveling? How might you effect a change in that expectation?

  4. Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

    Let's bring together the first and last verses of this pericope. The middle is grand and highly to be adopted as a personal mission statement, but for now the first and last.

    The Spirit of the Lord is upon me . . . righteousness and praise spring up.

    While having very specific tasks regarding the oppressed and brokenhearted, the captives and prisoners, the mourners, strangers, foreigners, and thieves, these tasks are to be done in the attitude of righteousness and praise, not one of a fore-ordained agenda or institutional program.

    The categories of folks mentioned in the middle not simply charity cases. They are sisters and brothers who don't need an iron-fisted prophet to face off against an iron-fisted ruler and culture complicit with same. Repentance might be better thought of as a pull toward a preferred future rather than a push away from a limited past. We turn more easily with a persistent strange attractor nipping at our heels, border collie like, and clarity of identification of how to reduce resistance with a force field analysis, than with a violent prophet set against a violent culture.

    These two nearly invisible gifts lead us, through alternative routes, to draw near to a choice of non-violence.

  5. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

    + rejoice
    + pray
    + give thanks

    - quench spirit
    - despise prophets

    + test everything
    + hold fast to good

    - evil

    = spirit/soul/body kept sound

    What equation are you using these days to keep progressing toward wholeness/soundness for self and others?

  6. John 1:6-8, 19-28

    "Adam" was to testify, witness, to the light of creation, a relationship with GOD. Down through the years this has been passed on - "Original Testimony", so to speak.

    We are all called to the task of Adam and John and Jesus, etc. - to testify to the next, best, part of life.

    There are different testimonies in different arenas of life. We each have our place to testify - whether from a riverbank or an empty tomb or where you happen to be.

    This testifying is Advent work -- Remembering back to our Original Testimony that we might Testify Forward.

    How's it going?


Thank you for blessing us with your response.