Advent 1, A, 2019
We’re going to really put the new microphone to the test this morning…
Those of you who have worshipped here at Holy Trinity for a while have lived through the experience of laryngitis with me more than once. This is how it works: I see sick people all day, every day. I wash my hands constantly. I stay healthy. My youngest child gets a cold. I immediately, invariably catch her cold. Said cold inevitably attacks my vocal cords. Voila – laryngitis. I pay this price, and gladly enough, for snuggly progeny. The duration of this malady used to be predictable – 5 days. Every. Single. Time. 5 days. Today is day #5. The last few times, you see, the course has been extending. I suppose my vocal cords are losing their elasticity just like everything else does as I age. The last time I had this it lasted for 11 days. 11.
For anyone who hasn’t tried laryngitis – I honestly don’t recommend it. I don’t feel sick. I don’t have pain. For these things I give thanks, but I squeak. I croak. I whisper, but I’m not whispering. My real voice breaks in teasing me with normalcy, then disappears into its bed of phlegmy rasping. I stomp my feet to get my children’s attention – because the din of everyday life completely obscures such voice as I can currently produce. I used to worry that I wouldn’t be able to maintain proper parental authority without my full range of vocal amplitude. “But,” my daughter tells me, “you are so much scarier when you can’t talk!”
When Matthew penned this Gospel narrative around the year 80 AD, Jesus hadn’t talked for a long time. Matthew recorded this particular good news for a waiting community. Waiting 50 years. Waiting to hear their savior’s voice again. Waiting to see their savior’s face again. Waiting, and maybe, beginning to wonder. Maybe, beginning to forget. Forget why He lived. Forget what He meant. Forget how to live like He taught them they should. Unlike the earlier evangelist Mark whose community had not waited so very long, Matthew reached for these images from Jesus. Images to wake people up. Shake them up. American novelist Flannery O’Connor wrote, “To the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost blind, you draw large and startling figures.” Jesus’s followers had become hard of hearing, nearly blind, deafened by the din of everyday life. Jesus is, metaphorically speaking, shouting and stomping His feet and drawing huge vivid pictures in startling and disquieting detail to grab the undivided attention of His increasingly stupefied, oblivious followers, lulled to sleep by his silence. WAKE UP!
Today marks the beginning of Advent, the first day of the new church year. We lit the first candle of the advent wreath, the candle symbolizing hope. But the days are getting shorter, the nights longer. The one will be taken, the other left. The thief comes in the night. The fires burn. The school children run from their school under threat. Oil leaks into precious wetlands and ocean floors. Hate fuels hate, anger fuels anger. Nation raises sword against nation. War is a lesson begun in the nursery.
Advent comes in the dark, and the quiet – the sometimes frightening quiet place that holds the chaos of the world in tension with God’s promise.
Pr. Michael Coffey wrote:
Hope is a blue note on a jazz-worn clarinet a chromatic
piano chord dissonant and handsome a minor modal
song sung diaphragmatically strong a silence between
hymn and homiletic puzzling it holds the day in
a miter-cornered frame setting off the eyes of the
hopeful like sapphires hope is a run on sentence waiting
for some punctuation to signify an end or a pause
or an unknowing or an exclamation of what is yet to come that
is better or beautiful or at least makes what is now worth
the long, melodic, sorrowful, endless, wonderful wait
Hope blooms in what one theology professor calls the “not yet places of the world. Places where justice and equality have not yet been found. Places where hunger and thirst have not yet been alleviated. Places where school children die of senseless violence. Places where the planet is not yet being treated with respect.” (O. Wesley Allen, Jr., Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org) We must wake up to these places. Bring hope in these places. Be the church in these places. Shine the light and love of Christ in these places. Beat our swords into plough shares, spears into pruning hooks, each of us according to our gifts.
The city of Culiacán, Mexico holds the record for the highest rate of gun deaths in the nation. In response to the gun violence, creative activist Pedro Reyes collected 1,527 guns in Culiacan for the project Palas por Pistolas. He melted those 1,527 guns down into 1,527 shovel heads. Now those 1,527 shovels are being used to plant 1,527 trees in the city. “If something is dying, becoming rotten and smelly, I think there is a chance to make a compost…” said Reyes. (Amanda Froelich, “Mexican artist melts 1,527 guns, makes shovels to plant trees,” pocho.com.http://www.pocho.com/chilango-artist-melts-1527-guns-makes-shovels-to-plant-trees/?fbclid=IwAR0HOASU423v6Aj39ao38XrLipvtRoV-FtKY8LsD5V33rCPMEz3ZkAhWN4E)
Death into life. Swords into ploughshares. Darkness pierced by the light. Wake up.
Jesus means to awaken souls. In the ending is the beginning – the birth of hope. We wait. Awake. Quiet. Searching. Living in hope. Acting in love.