The text for this week is so short I figured I would just put it here:

Jeremiah 33:14-18

14 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.” 17 For thus says the Lord: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, 18 and the levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to make grain offerings, and to make sacrifices for all time. (NRSV)

For some interesting historical context on this text, see the Working Preacher commentary here.

I love the image of flowers growing in unusual places. Springing out of cracks in a city sidewalk or pushing through huge boulders bordering the lake. Refusing to go unnoticed. Unwilling to not be.

The lotus flower is especially symbolic for me. It grows in the deep mud, far away from the sun. Nevertheless, eventually, the lotus reaches the light becoming the most beautiful flower ever.

The lotus flower is regarded in many different cultures, especially in eastern religions, as a symbol of purity, enlightenment, and rebirth.

Its characteristics are a perfect analogy for the human condition. Even when we find ourselves rooted in despair, caught up in mess—our own mess, the mess all around us, the mess of the world, the mire and muck we were born into or the stuff we create for ourselves—God can produce something beautiful in and through us.

This image inspires hope much like Jeremiah’s message. Through the prophet, God lets the people know that there is still hope in the promises God has made even when they cannot yet see the light.

The Jeremiah text talks about God showing up to keep a promise and gift the people with a leader that will lead the people with “justice and righteousness.”

This leader will “save” Judah and grant “safety” to Jerusalem.” With God’s promise comes the hope for restoration and shalom.

However, if we look closely, the pericope does not simply end with what God will do but goes on to share God’s assurance that leaders will continue to rise and describes God’s expectations of those in positions of leadership.

It seems like God was putting God’s hope and trust in the people to respond with faithfulness and by keeping their promises to God.

This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent and many of us will light the candle of hope.

Advent is about waiting – expecting something. However, it is not a passive waiting. It is a waiting that requires a leaning in…a turning towards…a reaching for…a response…

When talking about Advent, Walter Brueggemann writes,

Advent invites us to awaken from our numbed endurance and our domesticated expectations, to consider our life afresh in light of new gifts that God is about to give.”

Have we invited our congregations to embrace the possibility that God is expecting something from us—waiting on us?

Have we considered that in a time where “thoughts and prayers” alone are not enough perhaps simply “waiting and hoping” are not enough either?

Now is the time to remember that God will do what God will do and we are expected to do our part.

Given the state of our world and the reality that leaders in positions of power and authority are engaging in criminal behavior, letting people starve, caging children, criminalizing the poor, mentally ill, and addicted—we have work to do.

Given that even church leaders hide behind privilege and fragility, avoiding the public square and engaging only in “respectability politics” while communities continue to drown in debt, despair, and injustice—we have work to do.

Are we ready to rise up out of the miry clay and stand on solid rock – leading our communities closer to God’s vision and purpose for it?

If not us, who? Maybe we can ask this very question during our worship service?

What other thoughts come to mind when looking at this passage?

What preparations are you making for this Advent Season?

December 1st is also World AIDS Day. The theme for the 2019 observance is “Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Community by Community”.  Let us know how you plan on observing this important topic.

Rev. Dr. Marilyn Pagán-Banks (she/her/hers/ella) is a queer womanist freedom fighter, minister, spiritual entrepreneur, teacher, and life-long learner committed to the liberation of colonized peoples, building power and creating community. She lives in Chicago with her spouse and has three children and nine grandchildren. Dr. Pagán-Banks currently serves as executive director of A Just Harvest, pastor at San Lucas UCC, and adjunct professor at McCormick Theological Seminary.

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