Posted by admin on December 28, 2008 under Sermons |
It was not like any other day – that day.
Sure, there were some clouds in the sky and the sun had risen over the horizon. God, baruch et-haShem, had provided us with the daily rising and setting of the sun. And God had said, ki tow, God had said, it was good, good indeed. And it all looked very normal that day.
Yet, it was not like any other day – that day.
Sure, the people from the city were still going about their daily business: trading, buying, selling, bartering, but also stealing, cheating, even murdering. Nothing new under the sun. The garbage still stank. The shouts of the market were still heard all over the city. Street musicians still filled the air with noise. Jugglers, jousters, and jokers still annoyed the heck out of the rest of us.
Midday would again see the sun burning down mercilessly. We all had to flee deeper into our buildings to take refuge in the shade, in some cooler place, in the sleep of the afternoon. Even the children stopped playing then and the women selling food on the streets and the craftsmen would vanish. Only some lost dog chased after a rat or a squirrel or a loose rooster. Its bark echoed through the streets.
Still, it was not like any other day – that day.
Sure, the soldiers of the occupying forces still marched. The powerful still enjoyed their access to the privileges of the Empire. The rich were still able to life with all kinds of luxuries. The elites still had only eyes and ears for their needs. Sure, the poor were still begging in the street. The sick were still suffering. Widows and orphans still wondered about their access to the table. And, the dying were still pushed to the margins of society.
But, it really was not like any other day – that day.
Sure, even at the temple everything seemed normal. The usual buzz was filling the air, merchants selling all kinds of stuff, or changing money required for the temple tax, or offering sacrificial animals: like a blameless lamb for your first-born son, or a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons for those who couldn’t afford the lamb, the poor and the underprivileged.
And the priests were going about their own business, chanting the required songs and prayers, mostly oblivious to what was going on around them, only interacting with those who were part of the nation. It had always been that way, after all. They dressed in the garments and vestments, put on the breast-plates and their head gear, and then they entered the most sacred part of the Temple, only accessible to them, lifting up their hands and minds, interceding to the throne of God for Israel, for God’s chosen ones. And the congregation joined in with their “Amen.”
Nobody noticed the couple with their young child coming up the street. They were just like most folk, poor and humble; city folks would hardly describe their garb as correct. These pieces of clothes looked more like rags, and dust was sticking to every piece of fabric and every hair on their body. Their clothes also showed the familiar white stains so common in hot climates. It was the constant sweat that had left its mark. And they, too, stank. Yet, this young family – well, at least the baby and his mother were young; “young” would be a stretch for the father – they looked like they knew why they were there. They had come to offer their firstborn son to God, as it is written in pages of God’s revelation to God’s people.
This is when things turned upside down. I didn’t quite get to see the first encounter with one of those charismatic sages lingering about within the walls of the temple. But the murmur of some of the merchants and some of the pilgrims made me curious – and I investigated. Just in time too.
Anna, that old crone, who had been in the temple for longer than anybody could remember, cried out in ecstasy. She leaped up to her feet with a force I had not imagined to be in her as the three from up North (I am sure that is where they were from) passed her by. Her eyes were big; huge even. Her smile, though toothless, stretched from one ear to the other with a grin that wasn’t pretty, but it was heartfelt; it came from deep within. A tear was running down her wrinkle-furrowed face. She hunched over, not because of her age, but to fawn over the baby – or did she bow to him? Yes, she was happy, she was joyous. And with her thin, agéd hands she scooped up the baby from the woman’s arms and held the babe, rocking him back and forth, never losing contact with his eyes, ahing and oohing over what she held in her fragile and age-spot covered arms, delighting in the baby’s delight.
And then she began to sing. Began to sing of God’s goodness and mercy, of God’s love and compassion, of God’s blessing and God’s righteousness. It wasn’t melodious. But it was a song that revealed hope and forgiveness and justice and peace and healing for the nations. It was a song that stopped us all in our tracks.
Yes, it really was not a day like any other.
Christmas is over for this year – or so the secular media and maybe even many fellow believers want to tell us, no matter that we are only on Day Four and still have eight days of Christmas before us. And with the end of secular Christmas comes the realisation that not much has changed – despite the most amazing story ever told. Families still bicker, church congregations still do not know how to exercise forgiveness, solidarity, and gentleness with each other; people still ignore the needs of others; the poor still go hungry or cold or without medication; the homeless are still left sleeping in the gutter; children are still exploited and abused; girls and women are still harassed; minorities are still made fun of and brutalized; soldiers are still killed in faraway places where native war-casualties do not even have names; peoples and nations are in turmoil, and, and, and. It is all very much. It is all too much. No wonder many fear the post-Christmas blues. No wonder.
But in the midst of our darkness, we hear today a story that is too fantastic to be true – or so it seems. Yes, it is business as usual – for us. But in the midst of her old age, Anna recognizes the love of God, God’s incarnate compassion in a wee child. Anna, herself fragile, herself an outsider who barely makes it into the pages of our sacred texts – notice her words are not even recorded by Luke – Anna is touched by the fragile hands and fingers, by the fragile smile and laughter of a baby.
And maybe today, after we have come down from the high of days past, after we have crashed and burned, in the midst of our suffering, not just from depression, it might be a good idea to take a clue from Anna, from her joy over the baby, a baby that touched her deep within, that reminded her of her God-given beauty, her gifts and talents ordained by God.
Many words have been said over the last few days. But maybe it is time to stop just for a moment and instead put before our inner eyes Anna’s delight in the child born in Bethlehem. Maybe we need to watch the old crone, this unlikely prophet of God, so that we too can be reminded of our God-given beauty, of our many gifts and talents ordained in us by God.
God becomes one of us in a baby, becomes helpless and vulnerable, so we can scoop him up, cradle him, embrace him, hug him, hold him tight, delight in him, fawn over him, kiss him. And in return, the babe will smile at us and touch us deep within, will reveal to us our own inner beauty and restore us to it, and will ordain us as healers for the nations and their peoples.
[Reverend Markus Duenzkofer delivered this sermon on December 28, 2008.]
Posted by admin on under Bible Readings, Webmaster Blog |
Luke 2:22-40 ~ The Gospel Reading for December 28, 2008
When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord’), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons.’
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, ‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.’ And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband for seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him.
Posted by admin on December 24, 2008 under Staff Blog |
Thank you for joining us today as we celebrate the Nativity of Christ.
The rector, staff, wardens, and the members of the church committee of St. Paul’s Anglican Church wish you a blessed Christmas
May God’s light,
shining forth from the manger in Bethlehem
dispel the darkness of our nights
and illumine the path before us.
As you celebrate this holy season,
remember that God embraces all people.
especially the poor, the sick, the lonely, and the marginalized,
and do not forget that you are always welcome here.
Posted by Priest on under Sermons |
“In the beginning.” Those are the first few words of the book of books. “In the beginning,” the Bible reveals, “God created. God created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep. But the spirit of God brooded over the waters’ surface.”
In its first three verses, the Bible reveals already the deepest truth about the cosmos: God created. God created all there is. God “laid the foundations of the world and enclosed the sea when it burst out from the womb.” And the Spirit of God broods over waters. The Spirit of God is like a mother-hen that does not abandon her chicks. From the very beginning, God is closely and intimately linked to what God has made, never letting go of us, but caring for us like a good mother, embracing us, nurturing us, breathing life into us, and nursing us with milk that flows in abundance, flows to every single one of us, flows without judgment and without discrimination. God wills to embrace each and every one of us. God wills to be our mother, whoever we are and wherever we find ourselves on the journey.
In the beginning, from the beginning, the Spirit of God brooded, calling us her children, embracing each and every one of us, and loving us with a love too deep for words, loving us in ways greater than our imagination, loving us with a love bigger than the sum of all our hearts, loving us like only a tender mother could. Julian of Norwich wrote in the 14th century: “God chose to be our mother in all things.”
These are images of God and insights into God’s identity that speak of God in a way that might be unusual for many. They are images and insights that do not confront or condemn, that neither use imagery of destruction and violence, symbols of power and might. Yes, we are still talking about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who is the Ruler of the universe, the Lord of lord and King of kings, the Ancient of Days. Yet, it is the very God whose mode of operation is love, is tenderness, is compassion, and is a deep longing to be in an life-giving relationship with us, an eternal relationship, which affirms who and what we are, whoever we are and wherever we find ourselves on the journey.
God reaches out to us, singing love songs into our hearts and souls, love-songs too intimate for words. God opens his arms wide to become our companion, to become our partner, and to become our lover. God stretches her hand out to us to lead us in her love-dance until God is all in all.
Furthermore, these imageries and insight into God do not speak of a God who excludes and who favours barriers that separate. This is not a God that calls us to shoot and kill each other. This is not a God that sets up classes and hierarchies, which exploit for the benefit of a few.
But this is a God, this is the one God, our God, who calls for justice and calls for peace: a God of mercy and of understanding. “What is it, mortal, that God requires of you?” asks the prophet Micah some 2700 years ago. And the answer is this: “Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.” Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God – not just for God’s sake, but for the sake of the world, and for your sake, for our sake.
Do justice. Do justice as the storms of the economic recession are engulfing us, burning through our portfolios, consuming our livelihoods. What would justice mean in this time that is marked by scarcity and fear? Maybe we can no longer listen to the voices of the market as they rapidly lose their pseudo-prophetic edge. Maybe, instead, we need to listen to the voices of those, who walk through the doors of our Advocacy Office, or to the voices of the residents of “Our House,” a self-support home whose residents are not only battling homelessness and drug-addiction in their own lives, but who are also very much part of our church family here at St. Paul’s and who are the prophetic voices for us, the voices of justice here in this place. Or, maybe we need to listen to a voice that was for ever silenced last Friday morning, the voice of Tracy, a homeless woman, who burned to death when her make-shift shelter caught on fire from the candle she used to warm herself. What is her senseless death saying to us about doing justice?
Do Justice. Love kindness. Love kindness as our sons and daughters are killed by gang-violence, drug wars, and on the battlefields in faraway countries. Love kindness as innocent children and civilians are victims of invading foreign war machines. What would loving kindness mean when we think of Afghanistan, Iraq, Dafur, the Holy Land, or our inner cities? What would loving kindness look like in our relationship with visible and invisible minorities? Maybe, it is time to engage in a truth and reconciliation process not just with our First Nations brothers and sisters – who more than deserve our intentional effort in this process. Maybe we need to also listen, really listen, to the experiences of women; of racial, sexual and gender minorities; of those marked by a disability; and to the voices of people from places torn apart by war and terror.
Do Justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly with your God. Walk humbly with your God as many try to find their way and have lost direction. Every time I walk our Labyrinth, I am struck by the many twists and turns on the journey. Of course, they are metaphors for the twists and turns in our life’s journey. What the Labyrinth reveals, however, is this: I have a choice. Faced with twists and turns, I can abandon the journey. I can decide to be my own master and walk away – not getting anywhere in the end. Or I can embrace the journey with its twists and turns, knowing that every twist and turn will bring me closer to the middle, will bring me closer to God. In fact, in every twist and turn I can discover God anew, can hear God’s love-song in new and fresh ways. God not only seeks to be the destination for our journey, but God also longs to be discovered on the way, joining our journey and leading us to embrace life in all its beauty, in all its awesomeness, and in all its profound joy; life as intended by God, who has been creating and who has been brooding over creation from the beginning. In the beginning God created and God brooded, and despite all darkness and all pain, God has not given up on creation, has not given up on us.
“In the beginning.” These are not just the first words of the book of Genesis, the words that mark the beginning of God’s story with us and our story with God. But these are also the first words of the Gospel of John, which we will recite here tonight in a few minutes. John says: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word lived among us, became one of us.” The story with God did not end after the beginning, after the universe was created. But the story continues. It continues as the Word is born in Jesus.
Ever since God’s first brooding over the waters, God is intrinsically and intemperately linked to us. And God longs for us. God longs to be in intimate relationship with each one of us, longs to be our lover and our partner. Yet, God does not force himself on us, but is born among us in a helpless babe. The One, who chose to be our mother in all things, as Julian of Norwich puts it, needs a human mother for nurture and food, needs us to nurse him. God becomes fully available, fully accessible to us all. We do not have to search high, but can reach into the midst of a human reality, of a human life, of a life like ours, to discover God.
In the end, Christmas is not about angels or shepherds or magi. It is not even about a stable or Bethlehem or the controversy of a virgin . But Christmas is about God’s coming into our flesh to continue, affirm, and fulfil what has been revealed and manifested since the beginning of time. Christmas is about God being born as a fragile babe to offer all that God has and all that God is – for us. God is born in Jesus, so that we may be restored to the beauty that God intends for each one of us when he created us and called each us by name – even before we were born. God lived among us and broods right in the midst of our existence.
In the beginning God created. In the beginning there was the Word. And God broods over creation. And the Word lives among us.
In the beginning. And the story continues.
 Genesis 1:1f
 From Enriching our Worship (The Episcopal Church), Eucharistic Prayer 3
 Cf. John 1
[Reverend Markus Duenzkofer delivered this sermon on December 24, 2008.]
Posted by internetguy on under Staff Blog |
Everyone who went to the Friendly Feast last month received a packet of information about the church and a pledge form. Markus sent out more pledge forms in his December mailing. Why? What’s the big deal about pledging? After I’ve pledged, how can I donate?
Pledging helps you, and it helps St Paul’s.
Pledging helps you because it gives you a chance to really think about what St Paul’s means to you, what value it holds for you, and what you think you should give back to it. It lets you be very intentional about your giving, rather than just dropping a few dollars into the collection plate sometimes. Once you decide what you want to give to St. Paul’s, and you tell us, we will help you by providing regular (every 4 months) statements reminding you how much you’ve given and how much you’ve pledged (we do this mainly to give you the chance to correct any errors we have made in recording donations, but it is also a helpful reminder to you).
Pledging helps St. Paul’s two ways. Most people, when they think about how much they want to give, will give more than if they just haphazardly drop money in the plate. Of course, more money is better than less money. But the other way it helps us is when we have pledges, we have a much better idea of how much money to expect, so we can balance our budget. So from our perspective, it is not about getting more money, it is about getting a predictable amount of money.
If you have not pledged before, even if you are a regular giver, I urge you to pledge for 2009. Even if you pledge exactly the same amount as you would have given without the pledge, your pledge helps us with planning.
Once you’ve decided how much you want to give in 2009, there are several ways to do it.
You can drop cash in the collection plate. This is the easiest, and it works great for when you’re visiting a church. The disadvantage is that you do not get a tax receipt at the end of the year, and you have no way of knowing exactly how much you’ve given at the end of the year. You may have decided to donate $10 each week ($520 for the year), but what about that week when the snow was so bad you couldn’t get in? Did you remember $20 the following week? And those two or three weeks when you didn’t have any cash in your wallet? And the week you were out of town? Although you intended to donate $520 for the year, you may not have reached that goal, and you’ll never know.
You can get a box of weekly donation envelopes. With these, you put your cash or cheque in the envelope with the date of the service on it, and then put the envelope in the collection plate. This is better, because if you miss a week, you can see the empty envelope in your box, and you’ll remember. We keep track of how much you donated, and send you a tax receipt at the end of the year. If you want envelopes, please contact the treasurer (Wade Richards) by putting a note in the collection plate.
You can use post-dated cheques. Some parishioners give us 12 cheques in January, one dated for the start of each month. We don’t deposit the cheques until after the date written on the cheque, so your donation is spread throughout the year. This works well for people who don’t want to have to remember to bring in a donation each week, but you should be sure that there will be enough money in your bank account so the cheque will be covered. If you give us post-dated cheques and for some reason want us not to deposit them, you can always contact the treasurer and we will make whatever changes are required.
You can use credit card or pre-authorized debit (PAD) from your bank account. This is the high-tech, electronic way to do it. For credit-card, fill out the pledge form with your Visa or MasterCard number, expiry date, and monthly donation and sign it. For PAD, write the monthly amount on your pledge form and sign it, and include a void cheque. We will charge the credit card or deduct the bank account the requested amount monthly, around the 20th of each month. As a bonus, you can use any airmiles you get from a credit card donation to get closer to God. As with post-dated cheques, if there is any reason you need to make changes during the year, I will be happy to accommodate them: increasing, reducing, or entirely cancelling your donation if that is what you want.
If you want to use post-dated cheques or credit-card, but are self-conscious about having the collection plate go past you without your putting anything in it, you can pick up one of the “I Support St. Pauls” fliers at the back of the church, and put it in the collection plate when it comes by.
Posted by internetguy on under Staff Blog |
Did you miss a donation in 2008? The last day we can accept donations to show on your 2008 tax receipt is Sunday, January 4th, 2009. Please be sure to date your cheque December 31st, 2008 (or some other day in December 2008). If you are giving cash in your donation envelope, please be sure to write “2008″ on the outside so we know to include that donation on your 2008 tax receipt.
The 2008 tax receipts will be sent out some time in Feburary 2009. If you have moved during the year, please make sure the church office has your correct address.
Posted by admin on December 21, 2008 under Staff Blog |
Luke 1:26-38 ~ The Gospel Reading for December 21, 2008
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.”
But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.
Posted by Webmaster on under Webmaster Blog |
Mary is Pregnant!
Due Date: December 25th.
Come and Celebrate!
Today – December 21, 2008 – is the fourth Sunday of Advent. Four Advent candles have been lit and there is just one more candle to go, the Christmas candle. The eagle lectern is dressed in advent colours, as is Rector Markus Dünzkofer, seen here as he welcomes a new member of the congregation, Eric Fusy, recently from Nancy, France. The white pillars inside the church are ribboned in red and there is greenery everywhere.
Today’s reading was from Luke 1:26-38
In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
Come and celebrate the birth of Jesus, Thursday, December 25, 2008.
Posted by Priest on under Sermons |
I know you are REALLY getting tired of my saying it, but I do like Advent. The greens and decoration left so graciously by the Vancouver Men’s Choir make this church feel even homier. Candles flicker and lighten our childish curiosity. The violet of the vestments and hangings is one of my favourite colours.
But it is not these superficialities that make Advent special to me. Rather, as I was listening to the hymns, anthems, and readings at the Service of Lessons and Carols, as I contemplated Brian’s words last week that challenged us to encounter and embrace God in the eyes of the down-trodden and oppressed, as I was confronted with the horrific and avoidable death of Dawn Tracy Bergman, a homeless woman, I realize that Advent is a season that so much is at the heart of what it means to be human, in all its complexity:
We are not there. Not quite there yet. We are on the journey and nobody, nobody knows how much longer we have to travel. And nobody, nobody really knows where the journey will lead to either. But we are definitely not at the end of our journey. And on our way, we see glimpses of the sun, but we are also far too often swallowed up by darkness and night.
My image for Advent is this: I picture Mary, pregnant with Jesus, on a donkey, on the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, leaving family and friends behind, leaving her home behind, and exploring new territories, wondering what motherhood will bring, travelling on a road that is not safe, encountering darkness, coldness, and no room in the inn. Watching and waiting. Longing for the journey to end. When, when are we there? Watching, waiting, worrying.
There is nothing romantic, nothing nostalgic, nothing idyllic about this image of Advent. Maybe Mary heard the promise that Jesus is the Son of the Most High, but can she in her right mind really believe it? What does that even mean?
Furthermore, any mother will tell you that pregnancy has nothing to do with romanticism, but rather with the reality of biological changes and carrying another human being 24 hours a day, seven days a week for nine months, not knowing what to expect. Watching and waiting does not mean sitting down and resting in hopeful expectation. Watching and waiting does not mean stoic tranquility. Watching and waiting does not mean idle anticipation of things to come. In many parts of the world, pregnant women do not get a break, do not enjoy the advances of medical technology and social welfare, still have to work hard to feed hungry mouths. And there is a reason why we call “labour” labour …
This picture of Advent challenges me. It challenges me, because this is supposed to be a quiet time that calls us to watch and wait – and be patient. But quietness and stillness cannot really be reconciled with the image of a pregnant woman on the way from one town to another – and it can neither be reconciled with the reality of human life.
Have you ever read or watched Samuel Beckett’s play, Waiting for Godot? Let me give you a quick synopsis anyhow.
Two bums, Vladimir and Estragon, are waiting for a third character: Godot. Yet, over and over again, Godot does not appear. Rather, he sends a young boy to tell the two that he will come the next day. Over time, it all develops into a rather grim and hopeless situation in which the pair almost forget who they are waiting for. They even try to kill each other a few times!
There is some discussion whether Beckett derived the word “Godot” from the English word “God”. So, the two are waiting, not just for some character, but they might be waiting for God, pondering the meaning of live, yet getting stuck in hopelessness and inactivity.
There are days when I feel very much like Vladimir and Estragon, sitting around waiting for God. And what I hear so often by those claiming to be speaking for God is this: Be patient, watch and wait for God’s appearing. And, woe is me, if I lose my patience. Indeed, isn’t it the “Christian thing” to be stoic, to wait and watch, to sit down expecting God to appear, and in the meantime, to endure suffering and pain, to smile at oppression and exploitation? Aren’t Christians supposed to be just content and watch and wait like Vladimir and Estragon?
This is of course what those teach who understand Christianity purely as an after-life insurance policy, disregarding God’s call for us to be good stewards of God’s creation and disregarding the whole point of the Incarnation, of God’s coming into the flesh in Jesus Christ, born of our sister Mary, here and now, in this world, during our time.
Yet, the insight of Beckett’s play is this: Vladimir and Estragon are stuck. They never move from their position. They just sit on the roadside, waiting to see what will happen. They never go about finding Godot actively, they just watch and wait passively, hoping that Godot will come by. They are bystanders. And thus, I believe, they miss Godot.
There is also the erroneous belief that, while we are watching and waiting for God, we are supposed to be content with what we have and what we have been given. Such passive submission, however, prevents us form discovering God and God’s gifts in new, unheard of, and colourful ways. When the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary, when the angels announced unto the favoured one, she didn’t become an innocent bystander, a submissive servant, an idle onlooker, a passive receptor of the promises of God. But Mary became part of God’s plan; she joined God in his work of salvation in an active way. The angel announced unto Mary and she started the journey.
We have a responsibility for this earth and for all that lives on it. And watching and waiting is not really about sitting on our proverbial behinds watching the world go by and waiting for God to rescue us from this valley of tears. There is a difference between Advent watching and waiting on the one hand and the waiting of Vladimir and Estragon on the other.
Advent is about watching and waiting. Yet, Advent-watching-and-waiting, unlike Vladimir and Estragon’s waiting and watching is different, because it is an active watching and waiting. Advent challenges us not to miss Godot, not to miss God, who, in today’s Gospel, says through his messenger Gabriel, the archangel: “am with you.” Not: “I will be with you.” No, God says, “I am with you. Here! Now!”
Advent-watching-and-waiting does not mean that we can lean back assuming that things will just happen and we have done our share. We cannot just be bystanders. Advent watching-and-waiting assumes an active role to search for God who is already among us.
We cannot just sit at the wayside, because the kingdom of God is not something in a faraway place and in a faraway future. The kingdom of God is consistently breaking into this world. When the angel announced unto Mary, it was not a promise of a better future. It was the revelation of a fact: Emmanuel, God is with us.
It is a strange promise in a world that seems to be turning around almost daily, throwing us to and fro. It is a strange promise in a world where things that once were secure have become unsafe. Why would God be with us? Why would God be here in this chaos?
But as Mary and Joseph move towards Bethlehem, not knowing what to expect, the baby underneath Mary’s heart is already shaping, growing, making itself known. And it is not just any baby, but God himself choosing to be with us as one of us, shaping, growing, making himself known in Mary’s womb. And, thus, the night is not godless anymore; the chaos is not void of God’s love; and the darkness is pierced by God’s light. God joins us in our pilgrimage: whoever we are, and wherever we find ourselves on the journey.
This is the mystery of Advent. This is the mystery of our faith. In unexpected ways, God is with us already waiting to be born by Mary, by us, already saying: Emmanuel. God is with us.
 The Rev. Brian Heinrich, Lutheran Urban Mission Society (LUMS)
[Reverend Markus Duenzkofer delivered this sermon on December 21, 2008.]
Posted by Webmaster on December 20, 2008 under Webmaster Blog |
I’m trying to remember the grace that my first father-in-law used to say before every meal. It went something like this:
We thank you, Father, for this food
And pray you’ll bless it to our good;
Help us live your name to praise
In all we do through all our days. Amen
That’s not exact, but it’s close.
Perhaps it was “Father, bless this food for our use and use to thy service. Amen.”
Anyhow, one day a long time ago, our daughter said, “Why don’t we thank our Mother? She’s the one that made this lunch.” And there began a discussion, which probably went on in many households. And gets to the root of why it can be problematic to think of God as our “Father.”
The term “Our Father in Heaven” has caused me great angst. And so I’ve been working with it as a metaphor for many years, trying to find the perfect phrase that works for me. “Father in Heaven” refers to and/or conjures up ideas of the Divine, the Divine Infinite, the Divine Creator, Mother Earth and all her wonders, Gaia, the Immortal Invisible, Divine Father-and-Mother. How does that hymn put it?
Immortal, invisible, God only wise.
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessèd, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great Name we praise.
[Walter C. Smith, 1876]
Parental terms help us to speak about our relationship with the Divine. Terms such as “creator” distance us from the divine presence. That was the point that Emilie Smith made in her sermon on Sunday, May 25, 2008, when she was the Celebrant at St. Paul’s. It was Trinity Sunday, the day of the year that celebrates the three-in-one Godhead – all about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Or as I first learned the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
As I age, I become clearer about my position on topics and at the same time, I become more accepting of others’ views. Or at least I hope I do.
For years, I didn’t want to speak of “God,” because the term didn’t fit my concept of divinity. Now I see the word “God” as a metaphor for so much more. For me, it is also synonymous with this idea:
“Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine”
from Ephesians 3:20,21.
These days, I’m thinking of God as “the Divine Intelligence Permeating Everything.”