Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Time to Build

December 22, 2015
Reflection by Jane Hale

O Rex Gentium
O king of the peoples and their desired One,
you, the cornerstone, who make two into one:
come and save us, whom you fashioned out of clay.

In this season of Advent, at the beginning of the liturgical year, we, as Christians, are anticipating God’s arrival into the beautiful messiness of human community.   And we do this every year, so we know the drill.

We are expecting Christmas.  We are expecting God to be with us.  Yes, we are expecting Good Friday and the crucifixion, but we are also expecting Easter, the forgiveness of our sins, and the victory of life over death in the resurrection. We know what God has done in Jesus Christ, and we know what God has promised us.

In today’s O Antiphon, we sing that God in Jesus is the cornerstone, the one who binds us together, the one in whom the divided unite.

But right now, we as a nation and as a world, are reeling from an epic number of mass shootings, terrorism, and war, and there’s no doubt about it. We are hurting.

In some cases, we are hurting so badly that we are tempted to point fingers, and sling harmful rhetoric, and even violent acts, at our brothers and sisters of other faiths.  In some cases, we become so fearful of the unknown that we feel that it is safer to slam the door on our global neighbors who are seeking refuge from the trauma of war.  In some cases, we are tempted to forget who—and whose— we are, because sometimes, it is downright hard to be the people that we have promised God we would be.

Don’t forget.  Turn around. Because our common life depends on us being the kind of people God knows we can be.

Following Jesus doesn’t mean that we won’t face hardship, or pain, or suffering.  On the contrary; the world is hard and full of hurt.  It does mean that we are called, in faith, to turn from responding to hurt with more hurt.  It means that we are called, in faith, to turn from valuing our own comfort and privilege over the well-being of our neighbors.  It means that we are called, in faith, to Love with all of our hearts, even, and especially, when it’s hard. We are called to build respectful relationships where there is division; to stand up for victims of injustice and hate; to wage radical peace amidst violence; to welcome the downtrodden, the suffering, and the outcasts; and to care for one another—the stranger included— with wild abandon.

This is the scandalous Good News of the gospel:  that we are both loved beyond measure, and called, in faith, to partner with God in incarnating that love for others— building the peaceable kingdom together, the beloved community for all—here and now.

In our baptism, we make a promise, not to be cleansed of our sins just in time for God to show up at some later date, but to participate in the very life of God in the here and now—to be the Body of Christ broken open for the life of the whole world.

Take some time to listen to the stories of others in your neck of the woods, and consider where you are noticing hurt, violence, oppression, or division.  In what ways might we, in the face of division and consternation, join God and others in incarnating the Good News—building the beloved community, in our neighborhoods, in our work places, in our relationships, and in our own hearts? How might we be called to collaborate with our neighbors, incarnating the Love of the Living God in your own context? Together, hand in hand with our neighbors of other faiths, we can create a groundswell of life-giving change in the world. It won’t be easy, but God is our cornerstone, our firm foundation, our hope, and our guide. And with God, all things are possible.             
Thanks be to God.

(Excerpted and adapted from my sermon preached on December 13, 2015)

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