Even as the world is shaking, we stay alert and pray. Turning our head and hearts to the Triune God, who is bringing healing and transformation to our lives, communities, and world.
Vicar Andrea Bonneville
First Sunday of Advent, year C
Texts: Luke 21:25-36
Beloved in Christ, grace and peace to you in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
There will be signs, Jesus says, signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the seas and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
Shaken. Now that’s a descriptor for how the world feels these days. Shaking from distress among nations, displacement by terror, climate catastrophes, global pandemics, hate crimes, illnesses. Shaken by everything that traps us in fear and weighs down our hearts.
If you turned on the news in the past week, or were attuned to your community, you likely encountered something that shook you. Something that rattled your bones leaving you questioning how to put the fragmented pieces of our broken humanity together to make something whole, something filled with hope.
My mom watches the news at 5PM, 6PM, 10PM. When the news is on, she is attentive to it. A few weeks ago, while she was staying at our house, I learned she even puts a police scanner under her pillow as she falls asleep, white noise? I don’t know. My mom is the definition of “alert” when it comes to events taking place in her community.
I, on the other hand, stay as far away from the news as I can. Not so much news articles or public radio, but more so from the morning and nightly news in which in the first 5 minutes they introduce everything bad that is happening in the world only to suggest at the very end there will be an uplifting story. Like the duck, Quackers, and the dog, Max, who are best friends.
This method works and it gets me every time, even as a little kid I had to believe that there was something good happening somewhere. A way to steady myself. I want to cheer for something, and I will 100% cheer for Max, the dog, and Quackers, the duck, as they teach me about friendship.
The promise at the end—the animals, or the family reunion, or a new baby, or the heroic bystander— kept me steady and attentive through the more difficult headlines. But when I think about it, there was always good mixed throughout the “bad” news and even many of the feel-good stories stemmed from sadness and brokenness. Like in this case, Max and Quackers bonded only after they lost their sister and their best friend.
Our Gospel for today is like this. Giving us a highlight of all the bad things that are happening in the world only to suggest that if we are able to endure what is going on long enough, we will be able to turn our heads to see redemption. And hope that the brokenness that we see is only a part of our story.
What I’ve learned from my mom and her chronic news-watching is that if you stick with a story long enough, you are going to find hope some place in it. The antagonist does not and will not dominate the entire story.
Granted, sometimes you do need to change the channel or change your context if only briefly. Becaue if we turn off the news and ignore our community or get trapped in the worry or fear of the immensity of what’s going on in the world, we may become inactive or stuck.
Instead, Jesus challenges us to lift our heads and stay attuned, living alert to both the despair and hope that is all around us.
We can’t prevent the earth from being shaken by all the tragedies of this life. So, we stay alert in order to adapt. We walk through the shaking world pointing to signs of hope that are springing up all around us. Sometimes a broken foundation or even a crack makes room for something new to grow.
Our capacity to lean into the shakes are different for every one of us. But the point of it all is that we need to be attuned to the needs of our neighbors and the ways God is stirring within us. Some of us can stay alert 24/7 and others need to find different ways to engage.
Changing our perspectives is exactly what Jesus is instructing us to do today. Turning our heads to see the way the incarnate God is being revealed in our humanity and all of creation.
Turning towards our community and seeing the ways that neighbors are caring for neighbors. Contributing to building communities that go against the pattern of individualism and put community in the center. Realizing that our actions can have a significant impact on current and future generations. Living into our full potential to be agents of change, and hope, and healing.
Turning toward the font and the table. Remembering our identity as God’s beloved and God’s promise to be with us. Going with open hands and hearts to receive God’s grace and mercy and be fed to go out in service and love to be Christ in the world.
Turning… even if you don’t know where you are going. For a step in a new direction can lead us to places we didn’t even know possible and show us something different than old patterns.
Turning to God in prayer. However prayer looks like for you. Opening our hearts to God and putting trust in God who promises to remain with us. Being gentle with ourselves and finding ways to rest and nourish our spirits.
In this season of waiting, and hoping, and anticipating, we stay attuned to what is shaking and breaking. For we know that hope will come, trees will bud, light will lead us, for the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ is the ultimate transforming good news at the beginning, during, and at the end of our lives.
Where our world, and our lives, and our communities are shaking, that is exactly where we can expect to find God. Bring healing to what is broken, love to what is hurting, and hope amid despair.
There will be signs, Jesus says. Signs in creation, in our neighbors, and in our communities of hope among the people alert to the cries of all creation. People will trust and hope for what is coming upon the world, new life, God with us, to heal and transform us all.