Sunday, November 27, 2022
Advent, a season for reflection
The Rev. Mark Wilkinson, Rector
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Katy TX 77493
November 27, 2022
As some of you know, I came later in life to the Episcopal Church. I never experienced Advent until December 1991. Prior to that I was in a church that did not pay any attention to the liturgical world. So, I was truly excited to celebrate that first Advent with my family at St. Paul’s. None of us really knew what Advent was about.
Imagine my shock that first Sunday in Advent when I’m hearing a gospel about the end of the world. I was truly baffled. Now in each of the church years, Advent 1 contains a passage of the little apocalypse from one of the three synoptic gospels, Matthew Mark or Luke. They all have them set in the time between Jesus turning over the tables in the temple and his arrest. I wondered what in the world does this gospel have to do with Advent. This gospel is all about the end of the world. Isn’t Advent about preparing for Christmas? A conversation with my rector taught me that Advent is preparing not just for the baby Jesus, but for the future coming of Christ and the kingdom into our world. Yet there is even more to this.
Adventus is Latin from which we get Advent. The word can mean invasion, incursion, ripening, visit, or appearance all of which apply really well to this season. Now we have a gospel passage today where it almost feels like an incursion. Two are in the field and one is taken etc. This piece is unique to Matthew and when I find that in the synoptics I am always prompted to ask why did the author choose to include this. Please remember that Matthew and Luke both start with the gospel of Mark and include almost all of it in their respective gospels. They both have another source sometimes referred to as Q by biblical scholars, but Matthew and Luke choose some of the same material but also different material to include from their source Q.
Tuesday morning the bible study watched a video called Adventus and there were a wide variety of thoughts on advent, enough for a dozen sermons. Given Matthew’s choices of what to include I want to focus on three concepts.
The first was from Sister Ilia Delio, a Roman Catholic nun who works with Richard Rohr among others. She picked up on the staying awake theme of Advent. However, she tossed a new wrinkle into this idea that I had never thought about. Following in the theology of the writer of the Gospel of John she maintains that the kingdom has already come, that the focus should be on how God and the kingdom are already here. Now the new thought she introduced was that it wasn’t that we needed to stay awake, but indeed needed to wake up and see the signs of the kingdom in the world. She said, “What if in our world it isn’t God in the manger asleep, but we are in the manger asleep and it is God who wants us to wake up to his presence.
Now I want to circle back to the one is taken and the other is left behind. For many years I thought there was a randomness to this. Why one and not the other. Listening to this video I began to wonder what if the difference was in how the person responds. In this first case is the fortunate one the person who wakes up and responds to Christ’s invitation to be part of the kingdom. This would then prompt me to suggest that a good Advent discipline might be to wake up, pay attention to God’s presence in the world. If we truly believe that God loves and values everyone, then we need to pay attention to the signs of God in each person and in the world. So wake up this Advent and look for the signs of God in the world.
The second point is related to this first one. Kelly Brown Douglas said, “Advent is about the God who is always coming.” Her point is that God is always moving towards us, seeking us out. The problem is most of the time we are either oblivious of this or we are headed in the other direction. Sometimes intentionally but I believe more often than not this moving away is unintentional. Unintentional in a way related to my previous point. We are not awake, not paying attention to God’s movement in our lives. That leads me to suggestion number two for an Advent discipline. Wake up like in the first suggestion for all of these first require us to wake up and pay attention to God’s movement in your life.
Where is God moving in your individual life. What hints, nudges or even pushes is God showing you that maybe you are missing. Now there is a great discipline for doing this and it is the Ignatian Examin. Now this example is taken from Ignatianspirituality.com . You can click on this link to visit the page.
1.Become aware of God’s presence.
2. Review the day with gratitude.
3. Pay attention to your emotions.
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
5. Look toward tomorrow.
The first is look back at the day, see what stands out as important then ask, where do I see God in what has happened. Then the next four steps are to help you process what you have noticed.
The Examin can be done in the morning. I prefer to do mine towards the end of at least the workday. Wendy does it right before she goes to bed. There are several suggestions on the website and there are links to these pages on the related links page of St. Paul’s website. I will also put these links in the sermon text that Christie will post next week.
This is another way to wake up and maybe once again the person in our gospel is the one who was aware of God’s presence while the one left behind is oblivious of God’s actions. One notices God moving towards them and responds while the other heads the other way.
The last consideration is the one that hit me as the most relevant. Nadia Bolz Weber has a longer video of which an excerpt was included in the video I showed on Tuesday. It is entitled the Holy Thief. What if in Advent we think of Jesus as a holy thief? Coming in her words, “to jack our stuff.” Remember she’s lived on the streets and dealt with street people in her ministry so she speaks that language. But that really got may attention for what she said was “What if Jesus has come to take those things that I don’t like or want about myself. What if Jesus absconded with things like my body image issues, my intolerance of others, my impatience with myself and with others. What if we made not a Christmas list, but first make an Advent list of what we would like Jesus to abscond with. We have stuff that we need to get rid of.
So the last option I want to give you to consider is what in your life would you like Jesus to remove so that you could better live into the Kingdom
What I want to encourage you all to consider is waking up, staying awake and consciously looking for God, Jesus and the signs of the kingdom in your everyday life during this season of Advent. I think if you truly work at this, on Christmas Day you will have a great and valuable present, a deeper relationship and awareness of Christ’s presence in the world and in your life. That is something money cannot buy.