Saturday, December 11, 2010

III Advent

Readings are here

John the Baptist is in jail – and soon to lose his head, it is the low point in his life. Since he first leaped in the womb of his mother Elizabeth at the approach of Mary pregnant with Jesus- the gospels tells us that he has spent his life pointing to the one who was to come. From the high point of the baptism in the river Jordan when it all seemed to be coming true to now—seems like one of the saddest moments in our readings. He had been so sure – now – he sits in prison and wonders.

How many times in your life have you devoted yourself entirely to something or someone only to be disappointed in the outcome? Perhaps you worked hard in a job and still did not get the promotion you dreamed of? Perhaps there was a boyfriend or girlfriend or even your spouse to whom you placed your hopes and dreams and yet they left in the end? Or did not live up to your expectations. Perhaps it was a civic project to which you gave your time and energy but it was dashed to pieces in the politics or finances of the time? And then you wonder – like John the Baptist - was it all for nothing? Was it worth all that I gave it – will there be any good result.

For John – he sends a message to Jesus – are you the one who is to come or are we to wait for another? Jesus’ answer is “Go and tell John, what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.” In other words – wherever you see healing in the world – your work is being carried forward. Though it seems like the end – it is not.

Much like this story – we never totally know in the moment how things will be in the end.

A farmer was quite poor and had only one horse. One day the horse ran away. The neighbors came to console him over his terrible loss. The farmer said, “Maybe, We shall see.” A month later, the horse came home--this time bringing with her two beautiful wild horses. The neighbors became excited at the farmer's good fortune. Such lovely strong horses! The farmer said, "Maybe we shall see. The farmer's son was out working with the horses and was thrown from one of the wild horses and broke his leg. All the neighbors were very distressed. “Such bad luck!” The farmer said, "maybe, we shall see” A war came, and every able-bodied man was conscripted and sent into battle. Only the farmer's son, because he had a broken leg, remained. The neighbors congratulated the farmer. He said, "Maybe, we shall see”

Isaiah was written at time when Israel was suffering from invasions and her leaders being taken into exile. From the glory days of David and the kingdom – they had fallen to the depths – partly through bad leadership and partly through the power of their enemies who desired to conquer their land. Isaiah writes that it will not always be this way and to remain faithful to God in the midst of these terrible days. The people are not to let temptation turn them away from their commitments and belief in God.

James also urges patience in the face of things that seem to be taking a long time – not to give into grumbling or blaming one another – to keep our eyes on the outcome we desire. Not getting bogged down in the past or even current troubles. It is more important to live according to our ideals as Christians than any gain through using shortcuts that do not reflect what we believe.

The message for us when we sit in the prison of our dashed hopes and our broken dreams is found in Jesus message to John -- wherever you see the dream of God being carried out in the world - know that you have had a piece of making that dream come to birth if you have been faithful. We pray each week in the Lord's prayer- thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. We make this happen when we work for the healing of relationships, justice for all peoples, and a place where children can grow to become the fullness of who they were created to be. Large actions or small -- they all add up.

Oscar Romero said it like this:

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

thanks to Liturgy for the image


Grandmère Mimi said...

Notes for a sermon? Lovely. And the words of Oscar Romero are heartening in times of discouragement. I've read them before, but they never get old.

Ann said...

Yes- notes towards tomorrow.

Lisa Fox said...

Thanks for this, Ann. The "prison of our dashed hopes" indeed. Been there.

Ann said...

Thanks Lisa -- and thanks to everyone for prayers today