Posted: December 4, 2013 in advent, Bach, community, devotion, emergent, hope, hymn, luther, Oakland, paradigm shift, small church, writing
Tags: Advent, devotion, First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, pcusa, presbyterian
Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they commit abominable acts;
there is no one who does good.
God looks down from heaven on humankind
to see if there are any who are wise,
who seek after God.
They have all fallen away, they are all alike perverse;
there is no one who does good,
no, not one.
This is the beginning of Psalm 53, the appointed evening psalm for December 4. Really? This psalm is offered to us as a nighttime blessing early in the season of hope? This bleak view of humanity, this black cynicism, this misanthropic despair? Who wants to go to sleep thinking these thoughts? Even the last lines don’t give us enough hope to counteract the pessimistic lament so we can sleep through the night in peace. Or is that the point? Is this psalm meant to wake us up to what for many is the only existence they know? The desolation of loneliness, the gnawing hunger, the misery of grief – these are signs that nothing is right in the world. The truth is: while we sleep in heavenly peace, others are suffering. The psalmist demands that we pay attention. Advent demands that we do more than pay attention – that we wake up and get busy. The time has come… the summons to action has been clearly spoken.
“Sleepers, wake!” A voice astounds us,
the shout of rampart-guards surrounds us:
“Awake, Jerusalem, arise!”
Midnight’s peace their cry has broken,
their urgent summons clearly spoken:
“The time has come, O maidens wise!
Rise up, and give us light;
the Bridegroom is in sight.
Your lamps prepare and hasten there,
that you the wedding feast may share.”
Posted: December 4, 2013 in advent, community, devotion, emergent, hope, Oakland, pcusa
Tags: Advent, church, devotion, pcusa, presbyterian
Tuesday is a “meh” kind of day. Like your sophomore year in high school – it’s neither here nor there. The newness of the week has already worn off, the end is still far from sight. At some point, almost every Tuesday, I realize things are just ramping up AND that I have very little chance of accomplishing everything on my task list before the week comes to an end. It’s the one day that is always full – emails and meetings, phone calls and writing, more meetings, more calls. All of this happens with the bittersweet realization that hump day is tomorrow and the tragic reality that I’m never ready for the midway point.
But the saddest thing about Tuesday is that the gifts of the First Day of the Week have mostly faded into oblivion. Here at the close of Tuesday, the vibrant images from last week’s text have almost completely disappeared from my imagination. The vision of vats of molten iron being poured into plow-shaped molds seemed so potent, so full of hope just two days ago. But today, on Tuesday, with more deadlines looming, the hope of peace on earth is next to impossible and peace in my own small world is seldom seen.
I’m sorry I can’t offer the kind of uplifting, hope-filled prophetic words we might like to sing and celebrate while we wait for the birth of Christ. The truth is that Advent isn’t just about our happiness. It’s not about the promises God makes to us. It isn’t about some pie-in-the-sky optimistic view of a transformed world. Advent has to be lived, not just imagined. Advent has everything to do with how we live in this “meh” time of “not yet.” Advent will always be seen in the way we live all the Tuesdays of our lives. That means we have a long week ahead of us.
Even so… Come, Lord Jesus. Come now.
Posted: December 2, 2013 in advent, community, conversation, devotion, emergent, hope, Oakland, pcusa, small church
Tags: Advent, church, devotion, pcusa
As I sit at my kitchen table on this foggy morning, this is my view. The fog is so thick we can barely see the freeway, just three blocks away. We know it’s there. We can see the parade of cars that move down our street toward the ramp. We can hear the sounds of rush hour traffic and we can see the glow of headlights and taillights as the cars move up the onramp for the daily pilgrimage to San Francisco.
It makes me wonder: How much of our Advent journey feels like this – a kind of inexorable movement through dense fog toward something we know is there, but which we cannot see clearly, if at all. How do we hang on to a vision of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love that we can’t yet perceive? How do we keep moving toward a goal we’re not sure we can find?
Some days - most days – the long view is almost impossible to see. But if we look closely, I wonder if we can catch a glimpse of the headlights and taillights of friends and neighbors showing us the way through the fog as they move toward hope. I wonder if we can hear the sounds of other pilgrims on this journey as they move toward that Peace which is, little by little, becoming a reality?
Even now, as I finish this post, the fog is becoming thicker, closing in the view even more. And still, the cars and busses and bicycles roll by. And I can remember: Christ is still on his way…