On Sunday, like most of the members of this RevGal group, I have to preach an Advent word into a world that seems to become more violent and more broken by the minute. It’s hard to know just how to do that faithfully. Certainly the season of Advent is about hope, but hope seems like a ridiculous stance to take when events in San Bernardino, Colorado Springs, and Chicago are so much on our minds.
I imagine that’s how those who celebrated Jesus’ birth felt too. The gospels were mostly written after the year 70, when Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple. Into this culture of despair, loss, and fear, the gospel writers tell us of a savior – not a powerful ruler or military leader who will conquer Rome and bring back the Temple, but a baby who will become a trouble-making rabbi and eventually be put to death. Those of us who must preach an Advent word of hope these days are not the first who have to find that hope in the darkness.
As Christians, we believe in the patently foolish notion that God’s commonwealth of justice, compassion, and love can come among us even as we look around and see nothing but brokenness. This season of Advent makes no sense until we acknowledge how badly we need the hope that it brings. The world is broken. Humanity is broken. We kill each other out of fear and ignorance and we worship a culture of violence. We fail to act to stop it. The New York Daily News is right – “God isn’t fixing this.” God doesn’t meet our longing for a new world with a sweeping intervention to fix the brokenness.
Instead, a baby comes among us to teach us how to bring about God’s realm on earth.
It’s not through weapons.
“Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s attendant, cutting off his right ear… Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword back in its sheath.’” – John 18: 10-11*
It is not through sitting by passively while injustice rules.
“When Jesus entered the Temple, he drove out all those who were selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those selling doves.” – Matthew 21:12*
It is not through judgement.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells his followers, “Don’t judge, or you yourself will be judged. Your judgment on others will be the judgment you receive… Why do you look at the splinter in your neighbor’s eye and never see the board in your own eye?” – Matthew 7:1-3*
So what do we do to “fix this?” As RevGal Marci Glass reminds us, we can choose NOT to remain silent. We can stand up and say that providing abortions to women who need them is courageous justice work. We can demand laws that protect people, not guns. We can join with the Black Lives Matter movement in disrupting the unjust racist systems in the United States. We can work for laws and ordinances that protect transgender people from harassment and discrimination.
As people of faith, we can speak a word of hope into a culture of fear and judgement, and we can act to change that culture.
My friends, God is not fixing this. It is up to us.
If you’d like to join with other faith leaders in Faithful Solidarity, here is an invitation from my friend and colleague, the Rev. Rob Keithan, Faith Engagement Consultant at Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
The anger and violence directed towards Planned Parenthood and abortion providers, black lives, immigrants, refugees, and transgender people shares common roots: fear and judgment. This intolerance is not isolated or random, but rather the predictable consequence of stereotyping, shaming, and the willful dehumanization of individuals and communities. Faithful Solidarity is a call for religious leaders and faith groups to study, reflect, pray, speak, and worship about how this broken culture impacts our communities and our nation. It is an invitation to consider the emotional, physical, and spiritual consequences of fear and judgment, looking at both how it impacts others as well as the toll it takes on our own souls. And most importantly, it is call to action. How will we respond as faithful people? What can we do to challenge the culture of fear and judgment, guided instead by the values of love, compassion, respect, and justice?
An initial Faithful Solidarity Resource Guide will be available by Wednesday, December 9. It is intended for use in December or January. If you would like to receive the guide directly as soon as it is available, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and provide your name, city/state, congregation, and denomination. Planned Parenthood may contact you about the resource guide or other faith organizing issues in the future, but we will not add you to any lists.
* All scripture quotations are from The Inclusive Bible.
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