Sunday, December 11, 2005

December 18, 2005 - Year B - Advent 4

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
Luke 1:47-55 or Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26
Romans 16:25-27
Luke 1:26-38

Over the last weeks we've moved announcers from fig trees to two tales of Baptizing John to, now, Angelic Gabriel. What or who can't be an announcer (and, no, here we are not referring to announcer tests on ESPN)?

We are opened again to the role of announcer for ourselves - you and me and both of us together. Quite naturally or intentionally, we will be announcing all manner of things to the world about how we see the world working (or not) and what hope we are living out of (or not). This fourth week of Advent is a time to wonder what we are announcing through our responses to life situations. This gives us the opportunity to keep on the same track or make a shift.


  1. Luke 1:26-38

    Genesis: "Adam" is made in GOD's image and, like GOD, needs a helpmeet.

    Luke: "Mary" continues the image of GOD and has a betrothed helpmeet.

    Where are we to go with this second creation (depending on how you count floods and Exoduses and Exiles and the like - even a seventh creation perhaps)?

    From a Rib and from a Womb arise new possibilities to help name and help redeem creation round about.

    Precursors have been days called good and ol' cousin Liz.

    What a deal. Again we hear that nothing is impossible.

    What impossibilities will you give credence to this week? What from the past will you point to as evidence that will make sense of your "senseless quest", your "untenable position" (at least as perceived by less active dreamers).

  2. Romans 16:25-27

    What does it take for GOD to strengthen someone besides myself?

    It takes "my gospel" and "proclamation of Jesus Christ" [NRSV]

    The Message shifts language and location in this long, long sentence from "my gospel" to "our praise".

    This raises interesting interplays between "my" and "our". When we are testifying, witnessing, announcing - how much is mine and how much is (y)ours. What can I play with and bring to it my particular experience?

    To only announce what is ours in common cuts off the growth of the blessing to folks who have not experienced the growth of this common understanding or who have found it to be untrue as expressed in the lives of the announcers. While it can bring the weight of a particular strain of tradition to bolster it round with rituals and expectations, it seems incapable of increasing in glory - sort of like a postcard from travels where no amount of "wishing you were here" photograph can take the place of actually being here and making decisions that affect the "here".

    To only announce what is mine cuts off the growth of additional layers of meaning found only in rubbing "mine" against "yours" and finding a yet larger "ours". [More poetically put by e.e. cummings as he writes about a kite or a relationship:

    blue took it my
    far beyond far
    and high beyond high
    bluer took it your
    but bluest took it our
    away beyond where


    Just how "my" is your gospel? how "our"? When it comes to it, how "Jesus"?

  3. What exactly do you mean by God needs a helpmeet?

  4. When dealing with evocative mythology the category of "exact" is slippery. The imagery here is taken from Genesis 1:26 - "Then God said, 'Let us make humankind [adam] in our image, according to our likeness: and let them have dominion [here "rule" as differentiated in the next creation story of "cultivate"]...." and Genesis 2:18 - "Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner...."

    Do these passages speak of the same desire for relationship or partnership or helpmeet status? Is partnership innate to GOD and GOD can see this same need in us as we are made in GOD's "image"? Clarence Jordan is explicit in his translations about this partnership with GOD. In other translations it takes a bit more to tweeze it out from covering language.

    All through the Hebrew scriptures we hear images of GOD and Israel as husband and wife. In the scriptures about Jesus we hear about the Bride of Christ. These are all helpmeet images.

    Time is short as the snow comes and the day's schedule presses on. Hope this points some directions about what stood behind the helpmeet imagery. I'd be glad for your further reflections on the scriptures for the week as I do think we are partners of one another, as well, and working on our differences can be pleasurable, edifying, and unifying (unlike in our culture's yelling heads who are ostensibly imparting information but are simply parroting propaganda in its worst sense and turning differences into danger and distance from one another).

  5. Luke 1:47-55 or Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26

    David sees what GOD is going to do through him to make him mightier.

    Mary sees what GOD is going to do, beyond the blessing she has received, to make all more whole.

    Both of these are appropriate, from time to time, as we find ourselves intimately engaged in the experience of GOD . There is a call for us to be at the center of the action and to be able to gaze wonderingly and unattached upon it that self-same center.

    These understandings can swap on a moments notice and also find one or the other as a predominant organizing principle for long seasons of life. So, where is your engagement level during the hour in which this note is read? Is this a new position for you or have you been responding thusly for days and weeks and months and years and decades? Do you sense a shift coming as new experiences bring new perspectives.

    Last night's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart noted that South Africa's highest court has instructed the legislature there to get on with legalizing marriage between two folks of the same "sex" and this puts America in the position of being less progressive than South Africa. Another way to put that is that we are now more apartheid, using gender as the category of division instead of color/race, than South Africa, who was once the poster-child for apartheid theology.

    How do you see the issues of gender inclusiveness or diversity playing out in the visions of David and Mary? Are you engaged in helping them come to pass or watching and waiting (expecting) for GOD to care for it?

  6. 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

    Have you ever made an announcement that you were sure about and then found out you had to take it back? We do have a tendency to approach announcements with surety. We may not be right, but we are sure. Appearing decisive and resolute is all the rage.

    Participating in announcements puts us at risk for getting it wrong. At its best this calls us to practice humility. If we've not had time before we announce something, it is prudent to check as soon as we can to see if we got it right. Always it is easier, in the long run, to 'fess up to an error early on. The longer we put off making the correction the more "sure" we get and when we wait until we can't avoid coming clean it is too late to reclaim our integrity.

    Here Nathan announces his understanding that David is in like Flynn with GOD. "Go for it, David, you're the man!" Then, that night, correction comes. Next day brings the correction goes forth. Nathan's integrity holds. He shifts announcements as new information comes in. This will hold him in good stead several chapters down the way when he will need to again bring a word of correction to David, this time regarding Uriah and Bathsheba.

    How goes your announcement integrity. Hopefully you are not waiting until everything is clear to make an announcement because that will be the twelfth of never. Say what you mean and mean what you say until you have additional information and then, like shampoo, repeat the process to remain clean.

  7. Romans 16:25-27

    My life, Jesus' life, the prophet's lives are all oriented to whatever might be meant by the evocative phrase, "the obedience of faith."

    The first striking thing is the definite article. There does seem to be a drive to unify obedience -- there can only be one response and one focus for that response. There does seem to be a drive to concretize faith - - we do so every so often and call it a creed to which every knee is expected to bow.

    While many would claim it as simple as faith in a given and following where that goes, to many others including me, that seems all too simple, too good a deal.

    You don't have to look very far back or gaze too far into the future to note significant changes in what it is that is believable, that to which we would now give our obedience even if we wouldn't have a short while ago and can already see the handwriting on the wall that we won't so live/obey in days to come.

    Another way to come at this is that the direction of life leads us to engagement, not simply rote response. When we do this we are announcing a different take on reality -- a participation in life, not just a statement about it.

    What is it you are obeying these days? Is that what you had faith in 10 years ago, or more? How far do you think you can push that same faith into the future without it turning into yet another idol?

  8. Luke 1:26-38

    Jesus didn't seem to talk about his birth as a source of authority. Paul doesn't spend any time with Jesus' birth. What then might be its significance?

    It seems that Matthew and Luke saw this as a way to contextualize what they had to say about Jesus. The Church (after Constantine) institutionalized a single day of recognition (a birthday party, if you like) for Jesus (was it really based on 9 months after the then acknowledged date of the creation of the world?).

    Perhaps we might tap into this story through Mary and the angelic recognition that each of us bears within ourselves a “greatness”. Each of us also discounts this greatness. We have a whole series of questions (excuses) why this can't be because if it is true we would need to nurture it and allow it to come to fruition in its own time and then to be set loose from us.

    For now, know that the power of the Most High has come over you. May you let it be.

    Now on to the rest of your story and the story of the greatness you birth into this sorry world that holds the germ of creation too lightly and the armament of destruction too tightly.


Thank you for blessing us with your response.