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Advent 1: Peace
The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that God may teach us God's ways and that we may walk in God's paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of God from Jerusalem. God shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war
Romans 13: 8,10-13a
Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law....Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day
Like so many, I am struggling with what one of my friends call, a post-election hangover. Whether you were celebrating or grieving, all of us felt the rush of adrenaline for weeks before the election. But when that chemical adrenaline begins to leave your body, some interesting things happen to our mental state. Many have found themselves depressed or deflecting, as we've talked about the past few weeks. Author Anne LaMott wrote a beautiful piece this earlier week that frames it well and talks about where we go from here. Let me share a bit of Anne wisdom with you. She writes:
"I have passed through the initial five stages of grief: Denial anger bargaining depression and acceptance. Now I am in fascination--cobra hypnosis... Also, I am doing the unconscious eating that everyone I know is doing, whole packages of Oreos for us sugar freaks, whole bags of chips for the salty-fats crowd, oat-bags of dip, whole sides of beef: no little dog is safe in the midst of our voracious appetite for numbness. I absolve everyone: It's okay for now. We need ballast. ... But what do we do, what do we do? We have to figure this out--oh wait, never mind. Figure out is not a good slogan... Where do we start?
Well, that one I can answer. We start here, where our butts are. We get up and feed the dogs--I said feed them, not eat them.
We can say a little prayer even if we are not believers: "Help" is a great prayer. "Help me, help me, I am a completely doomed human" is even better. When my then six-year-old son got his head stuck in the bars of a chair at the dining table of some friends we were visiting, he went unnoticed for a time, and then a tiny voice piped up and said, "I need help with me." The friends had this calligraphied and framed for us. I say it at least once a month."
'I need help with me.' I like that. I need that. We need that. We need help with us, help in naming our feelings, sharing our fears, and vocalizing our hope. Yes, I said hope. I know many may not feel very hopeful these days- but whether you can see it right now or not, everyone in this room displayed hope today. We came to this place. We came to gather together to ask God's blessing, to praise the God from whom all blessings flow. We came in hope- that today we might hear something, sing something, speak something that will help us find a place where we can put down one foot in surety, and then find the strength to put down the other... We came in hope- that today we might hear something, sing something, speak something that will let us know things will someday be, 'OK.'
The text we read today, shares another dream from the Prophet Isaiah, and he paints a glorious picture of what "someday" looks like- when God's way has become THE way; when God's mountain is higher than the other mountains of the world. Mountains that we either look up at in hopeless despair, attempt to climb, fall off of, or from time to time repel away from, either out of disgust or for our own safety.
Isaiah uses the metaphor of a mountain for systems that humankind considers powerful- and so God's 'mountain' God's way will be higher than any other- and everyone can see it, and people flock to it, and lead others to it and teach God's ways to all the earth. And God will serve as referee in human war games and competitions- and take the weapons we use against one another and transform them into tools for building and planting and healing... as the song goes- "we ain't gonna study war no more"... That's the "OK" we get in the end.
Isaiah has a dream — like the dream we talked about 2 weeks ago, when the wolf and the lamb were feeding together- a dream that things can somehow be as they ought to be, and not as they are. And just like that dream, this one seems just as wildly unrealistic.
But this is the season of Advent. When we wait for wildly unrealistic things to happen- We wait for a young girl and and her teenage husband and donkey and an innkeeper and an angel to all work together to create an impossible dream of redemption. We wait for shepherds to bow to a choir of angels and 3 kings of the orient to follow a star. And we wait for the birth of a wrinkly, helpless, red-faced, wailing baby who will be savior to the world.Wildly unrealistic! But this is the stuff dreams are made of...
Dreamers can make us crazy- the realist inside wants to scream or slap them back into reality- 'don't you see what's going on? Get your head out of the clouds!'
But dreamers point us toward something better- they bring us hope- they demand, even for a minute, that we focus on something better- the should be- the could be- and for that minute, if we let them, they give us a glimpse of what peace looks like... and we feel that peace right here, before we grab that warm feeling and toss it out as nonsensical. "Dreamer! Wake up!"
But let me ask you then... When Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream, wasn't it also, wildly unrealistic? Weren't the suffragettes at one time considered just plain wild? Are the Dakota pipeline access protesters unrealistic? All of those scenarios started with a dreamer- with someone saying "I have a dream'- and then that someone woke from sleep, stood behind the dream to start making it happen.
And you, my dear friends, have that dreamer inside of you- all of us do.
It's why we come back here every year to Advent, to look again at, and wait for, the could be. It's why we allow ourselves to glimpse the wildly unrealistic, and believe it. It's why we sing let there be peace on earth- and joy to the world, because we know somewhere deep down, under the realist and the cynic, we are wildly unrealistic creatures of hope. Someday, it will be ok.
Meanwhile, as Anne Lamott says, we get up and feed the dog. We take care of the things that are in front of us, and around us. We take care of each other and the people who we care about. We reach out in our neighborhoods and in our schools and help those less fortunate than we. Or as the Apostle Paul says, " love one another.... love is the fulfilling of the law...you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep..."
We wake living the dream... We stand behind it, and put our legs into it, Begin from a place of surety... First one foot, then the other... but make your way to the mountain of the Lord- flock to it, lead others to it, and teach God's ways to all the earth.