of the things that has been in my Advent reflections this week is the difficulty I have, maybe we all have, with trust.
our post-modern world, we do not trust news sources without evaluating their bias and point of view. We certainly don’t trust Facebook. I participated in an online conversation yesterday in an article about whether priests are trustworthy if they say anything
negative about dead people after they die; that in the author’s point of view the priest’s job is simply to pray for reconciliation in death. The article was directed towards priests who had called out policies of George H. W. Bush that resulted in suffering
and loss, particularly in response to the AIDS crisis. My response was that the priests job is to tell the truth about joy and hurt in the deceased’s life, without vitriol.
I wondered again about trust. In that case, telling the truth about hurt erodes trust with some. Telling the truth about the positive character traits erodes trust with others. Trust is hard.
live in a time where we are expected to scrutinize every soundbite, every conversation, every relationship with attention to whether it aligns with what we already know- and reject it if it doesn’t align with our pre-set expectations.
advent reflection from my seminary reflected on that this week, and really provoked my attention.
author is the director of spiritual care education at the Seminary of the Southwest, and admitted that for her this “stance of suspicion” can easily spread into her faith life, causing her to doubt the good news as well as the bad. I appreciated her honesty
as she talked about looking at the empty crèche in the entryway thinking, “Why did Mary have to be so meek and mild, anyway?”
really got me, though, is when she wrote this: “Jesus is not deterred by my super-woke mistrust.”
identify with that, too. This skepticism, this hermeneutic of suspicion, this awareness that I must evaluate what seems to be good news in order to be sure I’m not being duped— this “woke-ness”— it impacts my faith. I wonder if it does yours.
so this week I spent a lot of time looking at the original text from Isaiah that John the Baptist quotes in preparing for salvation; this text of liberation for a people weary from a journey. We used some of it last week: Comfort oh, comfort you my people.
You are tired. The world has worn you down. It is time to come home. Make a path through the desert, out of the wilderness where you are— you get to go straight home, not around the mountains or valleys but straight there. Because you are saved, you are delivered
out of your bondage.
super-woke suspicion reads this right now and thinks, “Great. But really, I’m not expecting to move any mountains. I’m not expecting any valleys to raise.” I’m doubtful. If you want me to move that mountain you better let me see what’s behind it first.
the thing is, that for Luke, invoking this text, salvation really has to mean something. Luke roots salvation in a real time and place, with names like Tiberius and Herod and Pilate so that we know this is not some mythological salvation like the Greek pantheon
but salvation that happens in this world, in this space.
I look around me, and I wonder: what is salvation for me, for you, for us, here and now, in this time and place? Is it world peace? Is it personal healing? Is it hunger to end? The flourishing of humanity? Deeper or reconciled relationships? What mountains
shall I make low, and what valleys shall I fill, to go straight home and see the glory of God?
the Baptist’s whole message is to prepare for the one who is to come. But it is so hard to do if, in my super-woke state, I am skeptical that I am really preparing for anything in particular.
that is why I need Advent.
Advent, while the world ramps up around me, I can be intentional about turning a new direction.
in this passage calls for repentance. It is a word burdened with such misuse and abuse. But the word really simply means “turn” or “change direction.” It is not the same as confess, which is acknowledgement of wrongdoing. Confession may be helpful in making
a turn, but it is not the same thing.
is rather a reorientation; an opportunity to ensure that we are traveling in the direction that will take us to the destination we intend. A quip I read recently said, “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”
are you heading?
gives a time to stop and wait— a time to listen for a voice to break through from outside the mall jingles and party cacophony. It provides a space to reorient and listen to a voice from the wilderness, untainted and unthwarted by my skepticism and lack of
beautiful thing about this time is that the very act of stopping to listen, of waiting for a voice from the wilderness, skeptical though we may be of it, is itself a turning; a reorientation. It embraces our doubts and fears of being wrong. It embraces our
mistrust, and acknowledges the very reasons for all of our super-wokeness as a necessary part of living today and as a part of our need for salvation.
find myself this advent season waiting for that voice to help me also clarify what it is I am preparing for. Not the religious doctrinal reasons— not for the Christ child born in a manger 2000 years ago. But what the cosmic and present Christ is preparing
to burst forth with into the world today.
Jesus is not deterred by my super-woke mistrust. Maybe part of the advent invitation is to stick around and listen anyway.
The Rev. Canon Jeff Martinhauk
Advent 2C, December 9, 2018
St. Paul’s Cathedral, San Diego
on the Word, Year C, Vol. 1.
Ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor. Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press, 2010.
The Rev. Sarah Knoll. “Advent Meditation: December 3, 2018.” Sowing