Outside is America.
Outside is America.
In light of the two grand jury decisions to not indict the police officers who killed two young black men, I’m posting tonight the text version of the sermon I preached at St. Lydia’s a few weeks ago. This is, after all, the first week of Advent. #blacklivesmatter (You can listen to the recording here).
I’m so bitter right now, I’ve lost my voice. So, I’m letting my past words speak for me. #blacklivesmatter
The End is Near: Finding our Voices in the Wilderness of Advent
First Sunday of Advent (St. Martin’s Lent), 2014
14 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.” – Jeremiah 33.14-16
The end is near.
Tonight, our Advent begins. Advent is the traditional Christian season right before Christmas, when the Church prepares for the arrival of the incarnation of the Christ Child, God with us, Emmanuel.
It is a time to connect the Old Testament to the New, to remember God’s promises to a hurting, lonely world, a world in need. In Advent, we prepare to celebrate the gift of salvation.
Advent is full of symbols and songs and special rituals to create a special time of expectancy. Traditionally that time is four weeks. This year, we are going back to an earlier time when it was seven. St. Lydia’s is like that. It is a time of messages full of joyful expectation.
The end is near.
Advent, like her twin, Lent, is a journey where we pay close attention to each step we take, to our direction, to our end. Like Lent, Advent is a journey through the Wilderness to a place of rest and new life. This year at St. Lydia’s, we are taking seven weeks to prepare for the end. We have just experienced a season when we have listened to God’s liberating justice for the poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden. Now, in Advent, is the time we prepare our response. Now, is the time to speak and to be voices in the Wilderness. What will we say?
The end is near. (more…)
In countercultural America, Thanksgiving traditions fall into two main categories: Arlo Guthrie’s epic story “Alice’s Restaurant” and William S. Burroughs’ “A Thanksgiving Prayer.” Clearly, this being a theology blog, we take a moment to bow our heads and pray along with St. Burroughs.
Dear Lord, hear our prayer.
I preached this sermon at St. Lydia’s in Brooklyn, NY on the First Sunday of Advent on the evenings of Sunday, November 9 and Monday, November 10. This recording is from the latter. The title is “The End is Near: Finding Our Voices in the Wilderness of Advent.”
The Scripture is Jeremiah 33.14-16 NRSV.
14 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “TheLord is our righteousness.”
Today is the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy’s landfall in New York. We continue to suffer the consequences, both materially and immaterially. Sandy lives with us. For a Brooklynite, this is significant. When St. Lydia’s was looking for a new space, one real concern was water. “This is the New New York,” one of us said. We are closer to the superfunded Gowanus Canal than we were in our last space. The next time the Gowanus, that River Styx of Brooklyn, floods, we will lose.
But many have lost so much more. People still live in hotels, are waiting for financial aid, are trying to rebuild their lives. People died. In the aftermath, Occupy Sandy rose up in resistance. Occupy Wall Street and various churches worked together to provide support and aid. They were not the only ones, but they were visible, especially when FEMA failed.
It is not that the Church must sustain a defensive posture for trauma. It must sustain a responsive, loving posture. A place and space and movement of grace and aid and comfort. The Church lives and exists in disaster. It is convenient when disaster is abrupt, irruptive, and plainly evident. But the disasters of climate change and institutionalized prejudice and economic exploitation are slow and seeping.
Disaster has one of my favorite etymologies. It is Greek for “bad star,” when comets and other unexpected lights in the night sky unsettled the people and spread dis/ease. A bad star appears and remains for a season and then leaves. Perhaps to return in regular intervals. Bad stars are prophets. Bad stars are uncontrollable. We are at the whim of bad stars. They are harbingers. They are our disasters.
Biblically, the most famous bad star is Revelation‘s Wormwood, which falls from the sky and poisons one third of the water. But who needs Wormwood when we are our own bad star, when we have poisoned our own water, not in a moment, but over the course of a single industrial century? The new super-hurricanes are from our decades of pollution. The disaster has been slow and creeping.
This is why we love disaster and dystopian films. The crisis is quick and observable. And we can identify the rise of heroes. And resistance resolves and reorients the world in ninety minutes. Phew. That was exciting. Let’s go to our safe homes.
Sandy did not occur over night. Sandy was years in the making. We wrought her. And she wrought back. How often do we punt causation to theodicy, when the origins are from within ourselves, when we create the conditions of our own judgments? Perhaps, it is better to lament to God for our own actions, rather than the actions we press upon God like some sticky mess. Perhaps, it is the kindness of others, in pursuit of justice, who act as what could be God’s hands, that can help us clean up from the messes we inflict upon ourselves.
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