Spiritual Life

First Sunday of Advent

November 29, 2020 – Chaplain Erik Doughty

O, that you would tear open the heavens and come down! Look- please- Your people we are.

Those are the first and last sentences of today’s Isaiah text, written by people who were devastated, lonely, overwhelmed, and who wondered why God would not look at them.

You may know what it is like to have a loved one who will not look at you, who is upset enough that they will not exchange a loving gaze. You may know what it is like to be in the presence of a loved one but not be able to look at them. This is the situation between God and God’s people when some of Isaiah was written. “Please see us,” the people lament; “remember that we are your people.”

I think much of the past year has felt like this to many of us.

Devastation- so much death, so much sickness, so much chaos and upheaval. So much loss of that which is joy to us; so much we cannot do which we would have previously named as our coping mechanisms. O, that you would tear open the heavens and come down! Look, please- we are your people!

And in the Gospel reading for today, Jesus – having torn open the heavens and having come down to Earth — is about to live his final days on earth, but his message is related to Isaiah’s.

Wake up, be alert, so that you notice when the one who truly owns all of this — let’s say that would be God — so that you notice *when* God shows up.

Remember last week the parable of the sheep and the goats — notice when God shows up as someone who is hungry or thirsty or sick or imprisoned or in need of clothing or in need of home.

Wake up and look at *GOD* present in your midst in all those seemingly-ordinary ways, Jesus says to his disciples and to us. Keep doing those ordinary servant-to-your neighbor-in-need things, says Jesus — feel free to cry out for GOd to tear open the heavens and come down but ALSO, continue showing kindness, compassion, and mercy to all whom you meet— and *you* will see *God*.

In today’s reading from Paul to the rather-messed-up church at Corinth — a church were people were divided from one another and were each going their own way (like sheep, perhaps?) — a church that has grown tired of waiting, has grown bored with doing the good and difficult work of compassion and mercy; —when Paul writes to that messed up church of messed up people (which, by the way, is the only kind of church that ever exists because all people are messed up in their own special ways) — to that thoroughly failing church, Paul writes this:

Grace and peace. I give thanks for you. You have every spiritual gift. Christ will strengthen you. God is faithful. You are called into fellowship with Christ.

What??! Did you hear? These are words of blessing, not of judgement. These are words that remind us who we are, and how we are gifted in the Holy Spirit’s power for the times in which we live.

These are words that acknowledge — yes, there is work to do; and these are words which say, “You have been given enough strength to do the work you need to do.”

We are waiting — and there is work to do — and we can do that work, together, even when we have to be wearing masks and staying 6 feet apart.

We, too, just like the folks in Corinth, have every spiritual gift. We are alert enough to at least sometimes see Christ in our neighbor, Christ in those who are in need. We, too, are both messed-up and strong in Christ.

In that spirit, the spirit of being gifted and messed-up; of waiting and hoping while _also_ knowing Christ is present in the poor and sick and hungry and oppressed people; in the spirit of trying to be alert in the time of the year when light is the most absent and we JUST. WANT. TO. SLEEP; I will read you this quote from Bernice King which she posted on Twitter recently:

“Kindness matters. But kindness does not = justice. Civility counts. But calling for civility is not the humane response to injustice. Justice is. Love is essential. But love is not a passive, weeping bystander. Love puts in work.”

In Advent, we know the Jesus has done, and will do– the work of salvation; so while we await Christ’s arrival as a baby on Christmas — we wait and hope and keep alert and we put in the good and holy work of justice and love each day.

We, too, are God’s people. Wait, and work, and see God before you, and know more light and more hope is on the way. Amen.