Ordinary people … extraordinary acts …

Luke 1:39-55

In those days, two women came together in a small town in the hill country of Judea.

The one woman, who was so much older, we know was righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. We also know that for many years, she was barren, and that she was getting on in years.

Of the other woman, who was so very young, we know very little. We know only that she was young. That she was single. And that she was engaged to be married.

And we know that both women were pregnant, each expecting their first child.

Mary and Elizabeth rejoice (courtesy of Worship Sounds Music Blog, http://worshipsounds.wordpress.com)

The older woman knew that this child was a blessing from God, for to be barren in her culture meant to live in disgrace. And this child was, after all, promised to her by an angel of the Lord who had appeared to her husband.

The younger woman, not much more than a child herself really, also knew that her pregnancy was a blessing, for hadn’t that same angel appeared to her as well, and told her so?

But both women also knew that these pregnancies brought danger to them.

For the older woman, the danger lay in her age. She was indeed getting on in age, and to bear her first child when she was so old was precarious at best. So she remained in seclusion for the first five months, taking extreme care that nothing happened to her baby.

For the younger woman, the danger lay not in her age, but in her status. For she indeed was unmarried, and to be pregnant and single in those days exposed her to punishment, punishment which in the very least could include being “set aside,” rejected by her betrothed, and if taken to the extreme could mean being stoned to death according to the laws of her religion.

And yet … both women, when they came together in that small village in the hill country of Judea, rejoiced.

Because they had been chosen by the Lord.


Ordinary people.

Living ordinary lives.

Chosen to do extraordinary things.

On behalf of the Lord.

Part of what we celebrate in this season of Advent, and of what we will celebrate tomorrow night and Tuesday morning on Christmas Day, is that in order to achieve God’s miracles, God chose ordinary people to achieve extraordinary things.

Elizabeth, the older woman, and Mary, the younger woman, couldn’t have been more ordinary if you tried.

They were two simple women, one married, one single. In their society, they had few rights. They couldn’t own property. They couldn’t testify in court. They weren’t allowed to make their own decisions.

And yet … God chose them.

God sent an angel – the angel Gabriel, who stands in the presence of the Lord – to give them the good news that they, the ones society said were less than equal, the ones who considered themselves to be completely ordinary, had been chosen by God to achieve the extraordinary.

God chose ordinary old Elizabeth to be the mother of the last prophet of the Old Testament (Newsweek, December 2003), John, who would be called the Baptist. John, who would be great in the sight of the Lord. John, who would turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. John, who would make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

And God chose ordinary young Mary to be the mother of God’s only begotten Son, Jesus, who would be called the Messiah. Jesus, who is the embodiment of the New Testament, who is the New Covenant that God makes with his people. Jesus, who gives God’s people new life and life eternal.

Two ordinary women, chosen by God, to achieve extraordinary things.

When most of us think about Elizabeth and Mary, lo, these two thousand years after the fact, we tend to think of them as special, as extraordinary women. Elizabeth is indeed a saint of the church, and Mary is, of course, the Blessed Virgin.

But when God came calling, in the form of the Angel Gabriel (in Elizabeth’s case, to her husband Zechariah), they weren’t yet saints, they weren’t yet blessed. They were just two women, going about their daily lives, trying to be righteous before the Lord.

Which is pretty much the same situation in which we find ourselves, when we find God calling in our lives. We, like Elizabeth and Mary, are, for the most part, pretty much ordinary people, living pretty much ordinary lives. Yes, we are special in the eyes of The Lord, each and every one of us a beloved child of God. God loves us as our mothers do – equally, none more, none less than anyone else.

We are, whether we like to admit it, ordinary people. Just like Elizabeth and Mary.

And yet … just as God called them, God calls us.

Ordinary people.

To do extraordinary things.

God calls us – through Elizabeth’s son, John who is called the Baptist – to prepare the way of the Lord, to make straight a path in the wilderness.

God calls us – through Mary’s son, Jesus who is the Messiah – to love our neighbors as ourselves, to heal the sick, to include the marginalized, to live radical lives driven by hope, filled with love, consumed with mercy.

God calls us – through Mary’s son, Jesus who is the Messiah – to do justice, no matter how hard that might be; to love kindness – even to the strangers among us; and to walk humbly with our God – not in God’s place, not pretending to be God, but with God.

We, who are rather ordinary people living rather ordinary lives, are called, just as Elizabeth and Mary were called.

By God

To do extraordinary things.

Will we answer that call?

Will we, like Elizabeth and Mary, have the courage to say “Yes,” even when we know that saying “Yes” could be as dangerous to us as it was dangerous to them, knowing that saying “Yes” might very well get us into trouble?

And will we, like Elizabeth and Mary, not only say “Yes,” will we rejoice in doing so? Will we magnify the Lord for looking with favor on the lowliness of his servants?

Will we bless the Mighty One for doing great things for us, and proclaim his name to be holy?

Because the fact of the matter is, we are called.

Not because we’re special.

But because we are ordinary.

Just like all those other ordinary people God called throughout the ages.

You see, whenever God wants to do something extraordinary in God’s good creation, God turns to ordinary people. Throughout history, God has asked ordinary people to do the extraordinary on his behalf: Noah. Abram and Sarai. Jacob. David. Debra. Elijah. Susannah. Isaiah. Jonah. Jeremiah. Obadiah. Ezekiel. Elizabeth. Mary.

And oh, my, were these ordinary people. Noah? Who was he, other than a carpenter – and apparently could build a boat. Abram? He was so concerned with saving his own skin he lied – twice! – about his wife! Jacob? He was a double-dealing liar! Gideon? He was so unimpressed with the visit by the angel that he made the angel prove – repeatedly – that he indeed was from God! Jeremiah? He spent his entire prophetic ministry complaining to God: “I don’t like these people! I don’t want to do this!” Jonah? He objected to God sending him to Ninevah so much that he ended up in the belly of the whale – and then ended up in Ninevah anyway! David? He was stinky shepherd! OK – he was tall and ruddy and handsome. But he stank!

All of them were ordinary people. Called by God. To do the extraordinary. On God’s behalf.

There was nothing terribly special about those people before they were called.

We remember them only because they answered God’s call.

There’s nothing terribly special about us, either.

We will be remembered only if we, like those who have gone before us, answer that call.

So that God’s extraordinary acts can be achieved.

In these holy seasons of Advent and Christmas, are we ready to say “Yes” so that we, too, can do extraordinary things on God’s behalf?

So that we can bring about God’s justice, God’s mercy, God’s love, God’s hope in this world?

God is calling.

How will we answer?


Sermon preached at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Staunton, Va., on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year C, 23 December, 2012.

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Go ahead: Buy. Hope. Prepare. It’s Advent!

OK, here’s the thing:

Come Sunday, we will be in the season of Advent. The season of waiting. The season of preparing. The season of hope.

One of the biggest complaints you hear in the Church is that society in general tends to skip over Advent and move right to Christmas, that Black Friday is more important than anything the Church has to offer, that somehow, we’re taking the “Christ” out of Christmas.

And yeah, in some ways, we probably are.

But I am wondering, right now, if in condemning those who focus on Christmas in Advent, we are missing the point.

If you and your significant other were to be expecting a baby on Christmas Day, wouldn’t you be preparing?

Wouldn’t you be out there, rushing around to get the last-minute supplies?

And go to the baby showers?

And paint the room?

And lay in the food?

And buy, buy, buy, buy?

Wouldn’t you?

So … if it’s OK to do that for your baby, why isn’t it OK to do for God’s baby?

I mean, yeah, some people do miss the meaning of Christmas, and it does become a thing about buying for the sake of buying, and partying for the sake of partying.

But even then, are they really missing the point? Aren’t they focused, at least in some little way, on relationships?

Because isn’t that what all this frenzy is about, in this season of Advent? Aren’t we going nuts because of relationships?

I mean, what if the presents we are buying are the ones that people actually need?

Or what if the presents are the kind that help others – you know, the gift cards that help bring clean water to the thirsty, and food to the hungry, and clothing to the naked?

And what if, in attending those parties, we are celebrating relationships? Community?

And what if, in going to see family for the holidays, we are doing the same thing?

So, here’s the thing:

Be careful what you wish for.

Telling people they can’t celebrate Christmas in Advent means that in reality, we are telling people they can’t prepare.

And last time I checked, that’s what Advent is all about: preparing.

After all, isn’t that what John the Baptist kept crying: Prepare ye the way of the Lord!?

So forgive me if I’ve reached the age when I feel it’s OK to get a bit worked up about Christmas. When I say I’m going to a “Christmas” party, and not an “Advent” party. When I let slip with a “Merry Christmas” on occasion.

And forgive me for getting excited about the fact that there’s a BABY coming!

And forgive me for spending a lot of time thinking about what gift I’m going to get for each of my loved ones. I put a lot of thought into this, and a lot of work as well. Will the gifts I give be the biggest and the bestest? Hardly. But they will be thoughtful, and they will be loving, and I will enjoy giving them, and pray that my loved ones will enjoy receiving them.

So go ahead. Go a little nuts if you must in this season of Advent. Because remember: You are preparing.

If you really want to know what Advent is all about, look at this video, Advent in 2 Minutes.

And then remember: Advent? It’s about preparing. And hope.

So go on … go prepare. And hope some, too.

That’s the spirit.

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Suck it up! Deal with it!

Mark 1:1

 Good old Mark – he never misses a chance to beat us over the head with the obvious, does he?

I once sat in a theology class with one of the most respected theologians of the Church, Bishop Mark Dyer, shortly after he came to Virginia Seminary.

“The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” he intoned.

We all looked at him blankly.

“The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” he repeated, giving us one of his sterner looks.

More blank looks.

“Who said that?” he asked.

Even more blank stares.

“Which Gospel begins this way?” he asked, rather urgently.

(Now, this was before the advent of the Internet, so none of us could surreptitiously Google the quote … and none of us felt comfortable ostentatiously taking out our Bibles to check the Gospels riki-tik.)

“Mark!” he said. “Mark opens his Gospel this way! Why? So you don’t miss the point of the whole story! Jesus is the Good News! Jesus is the Son of God!

We can all giggle about this now, because we just heard the beginning of Mark’s Gospel read right here in this place.

But the fact is, when we think about the beginning of Mark’s Gospel, we think of John the Baptist, because Mark jumps right there.

The fact is, we tend to miss the beginning of each Gospel, which is a shame, because every beginning is important.

Look at those other Gospels. Matthew gives you a big boring genealogy (how many of you have ever read that? You should, you know, because there’s pretty important news buried in there, like the fact that a harlot is one of Jesus’ ancestors). Because Matthew wants you to know that Jesus is descended from the right people.

Luke? Bet you think it starts with the Annunciation, don’t you? But it doesn’t. It starts with a note to “most excellent Theophilus,” with Luke’s explanation that he’s going to write “an orderly account … so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.” (I’m guessing you skip over that part, too, don’t you?) Luke wants you to know his version is true.

And then there’s John, my beloved John, who speaks poetry: En archē ēn ho Lógos, kai ho Lógos ēn pros ton Theón, kai Theós ēn ho Lógos. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? But it needs a lot of unpacking to understand that John is going beyond even in the beginning …

And Mark?

You don’t need to unpack Mark, because he just slams you upside the head with his baseball-bat Gospel:

The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

You know what this means, don’t you?

It means that we know, right from the beginning, that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, the one for whom God’s chosen people had been waiting.

Mark’s message: No more waiting! It’s done! Suck it up! Deal with it!

Mark makes sure that you are never in doubt as to what’s going on, never wondering what something means.

Because Mark doesn’t have time to mess around! He doesn’t bother with little things like birth stories or angel’s visits or pretty words.

He gets right to the point, so much so that he can say: “Look, Ma, no Verb!”[1]

Mark is immediate (he uses the word 42 times in his short Gospel). He’s urgent. He wants to give us the Good News – the Gospel – of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God because there is no time to waste … so listen up!

And isn’t that what we need right now, on this Second Sunday of Advent?

Isn’t it nice to have some urgency not for buying and wrapping and partying, but for God? And for God’s marvelous news that God is with us? That God loves us so much that God is willing to be one of us, so that we can see God, and touch God, and hear God (not through the prophets but directly), and smell God, and yes, even taste God?

Isn’t it good for our souls to have someone knock us upside the head and say, Pay attention!!!

Because really … we don’t pay enough attention to God, do we? Especially right now, when society is pushing us relentlessly toward a vision of Christmas that really isn’t about God, but about ourselves, and our wants and our needs.

Mark doesn’t stand for that kind of faith. Over and over again in his telling of the Good News, Mark urgently says: It’s not about us. It’s about God.

Suck it up! Deal with it!

Just look at what happens in Mark’s story as soon as he’s delivered that Good News to us:

He starts talking about John the Baptist, whose whole message is that he must decrease so that Jesus (“the one who is more powerful than I is coming after me”) may increase.

“I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thongs of his sandals,” he announces to all those – and I do mean all those who have come out to see him – “the people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem” – thinking that perhaps he was the Messiah for whom they waited.

And if John can decrease, if John can be so humble, if John can say (and this would be a paraphrase, mind you): “It’s not about me, it’s about God![2] can’t we do the same?

That’s what Advent is about, my friends. Putting God first.

So, really. Mark’s urgency is a gift to us in this season of waiting. Because we’ve more or less forgotten how to wait. We’ve forgotten how to be attentive. We’ve forgotten how to put God first in everything we do.

I know, I know: According to society, it’s Christmastime. (I’m pretty certain that the business world has no idea that Advent even exists, much less what it means.)

Let’s be honest: At this time of year, we all have a bit of the child in us, with dreams of getting the coolest gifts and giving the bestest gifts, of family gatherings that are filled with nothing but laughter and joy, of roaring fires on cold nights, and of cookies … lots and lots of cookies. It’s what we want for Christmas.

So it’s easy to get sucked into the Christmas urgency that society foists upon us.

But Mark?

Mark’s urgency doesn’t focus on Jesus’ birth story.

Mark’s urgency focuses on Jesus’ story.

Mark wants us to know, in no uncertain terms, whether we want to know it or not, whether we like it or not, that our lives were – and are – and ever will be – irrevocably changed by Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

In short, Mark is telling us repeatedly: Deal with it!

Deal with the fact that God is here among us. That God loves us. That God calls us to love one another.

Deal with the fact that God wants our attention … this day and every day.

Deal with the fact that the Jesus is the Son of God and that this is all the good news we are ever going to need.

My friends, we have 21 more days of Advent.

And in this Advent season, Mark has a message for us:

Get urgent about God.



 A sermon preached on the Second Sunday of Advent, Year B, at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Blue Grass, Va., 4 December 2011.

[1] Nadia Bolz-Weber, [TheHardestQuestion], “Go Ahead, Judge a Book by Its Title,” http://thehardestquestion.org/yearb/advent2gospel-2/#more-2123.

[2] Barbara Cawthorne Crafton, The Geranium Farm, The Almost Daily eMo, “The Courage to Yield,” http://www.geraniumfarm.org/dailyemo.cfm?Emo=1371.



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Blinded by the wrong vision …

Preached at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Bailey’s Crossroads, Va., on the Third Sunday of Advent.

My friends in Christ, Father James has asked me to speak this morning to all of us gathered here, which means that part of this sermon will be in English, and part will be in Spanish. I need to tell you that my Spanish, while good, is nowhere near as strong as it could be … so I ask you to bear with me on that … please.

Mis amigos en Crist0, Padre James me ha pedido hablar esta mañana a todos los que estamos aquí reunidos, lo que significa que parte de este sermon sera en Ingles, y una parte sera en español. Perdoname, pero yo quiero ustedes sepan que mi español no es muy fuerte. Pero voy a tratar de ser claro para que puede entender lo que estoy tratando de decir, de acuerdo?

Bueno …

En el nombre de un solo Dios, Padre, Hijo y Espiritu Santo. In the name of one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

How often do we look at something and decide we know what it means, that we understand what we are seeing – only to discover, later, that we were wrong?

Con que frecuencia nos fijamos en algo y decidimos que saben lo que significa, que entendemos lo que estamos viendo – solo para descubrir, mas tarde, que nos equivocamos?

How often do we look at something we have typed on our computers and miss the typos?

For many years, I was a newspaper editor. Part of my job was to design  each page of the paper, to decide what story went where, what the  headlines would say, how big the pictures would be.

Cuando yo trabajaba como editor de un periódico, una parte de mi trabajo era diseñar cada página, para decidir qué historia fue que, lo que los titulares que dicen, lo grande que las fotos serían.

Every night, before we put the newspaper to bed (as we used to say),  several of us would gaze at the front page, reading every word of every  headline, desperate to make sure that there were no errors.

Todas las noches, varios de nosotros se vería en la primera página, la lectura de cada palabra de cada título para asegurarse de que no hubo errores.

But some nights, no matter how hard we tried, we would still get it wrong.

Pero algunas noches, no importa lo duro que lo intentamos, que todavía se equivocan.

Like the night there was a helicopter crash, and despite the fact that 10 of us – TEN of us – read the headline before we went to press, all 10 of missed the fact that I had spelled helicopter H-E-L-P-I-C-O-T-E-R – HELPICOTER.

Al igual que la noche que escribe “helicóptero” como “helpicotero.” Que era malo.

And then there was the lawyer in town whose name I could not spell correctly no matter how hard I tried. Every time I put Mr. Snyder’s name in a headline, everyone would look it over to make sure it was right. Yet … three times in one year, instead of spelling his name S-N-Y-D-E-R, I managed to make it –S-Y-N-D-E-R. Mr. Snyder later married my best friend … and told me I could NOT help with the wedding invitations, thank you very much.

O las tres veces que me indicación de su nombre un abogado de forma incorrecta en la pagina primera. Que era malo.

We all make these mistakes.

Todos cometemos estos errores.

We all look at something and decide – sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously – that we know what we are seeing.

Nos fijamos en algo y decidir que sabemos lo que estamos viendo.

Many times, we are wrong.

Muchas veces, nos equivocamos.

Many times, we are only seeing what we want to see … not the truth that is standing right there in front of us.

Muchas veces, sólo vemos lo que queremos ver … no la verdad que está de pie justo delante de nosotros.

That is the problem from which John the Baptist suffers in this morning’s Gospel.

Ese es el problema de que Juan el Bautista sufre en el Evangelio de esta mañana.

John is in prison, put there by Herod for exposing the truth about Herod. He knows he’s in real trouble, and that he probably will die for having stood up to the powers-that-be.

Juan está en la cárcel, puesto allí por Herodes por decir la verdad … y Juan va a morir porque le dijo la verdad sobre Herodes.

In his last days, John seems to be trying to make sense of his life. He is, after all, the one who came before, to proclaim the coming of the Messiah. He is the one who told us – just last week, if you remember:

But one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals.

Juan quiere dar sentido a su vida. Recuerde, él es el que proclama la venida del Mesías. Él es el que dijo, la semana pasada, recuerde:

Pero aquel que es más poderoso que yo viene detrás de mí, yo no soy digno de llevarle las sandalias.

And furthermore, John proclaimed as he faced down the St. John the Baptist Preaching (ca. 1650),

Pharisees and the Sadducees — the ones he branded the “brood of vipers”:                                Mattia Preti (1613-1699),

He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.

Y además, Juan proclamado como se enfrentó a los fariseos y los saduceos – los que marca la “generación de víboras”:

Él os bautizará con el Espíritu Santo y fuego. El tenedor aventar está en su mano, y limpiará su era y recogerá su trigo en el granero, pero la paja la quemará con fuego inextinguible.

That was John’s vision of who the Messiah would be: a powerful person.

Esa fue la visión de Juan de que el Mesías sería: una persona poderosa.

That was John’s vision of what the Messiah would do: he would cleanse the earth of the unworthy ones, get rid of those who did not meet John’s high standards.

Esa fue la visión de Juan de lo que el Mesías iba a hacer: iba a limpiar la tierra de los indignos, deshacerse de los malos.

John had a vision, all right.

Juan tuvo una visión, seguro.

A vision of fire and brimstone, of judgment day, of the worthy ones being received and the evil ones cast out.

Una visión de fuego y azufre, del día del juicio, de los dignos de ser recibidos y los malos arrojados.

The problem was, John’s vision blinded him to the vision.

El problema era que la visión de Juan le cegaba la visión.

And because of that blinding vision of his own making, John, the last Old Testament prophet, could not see that the one he himself had proclaimed was right there in front of him.

Juan, el último profeta del Antiguo Testamento, no podía ver que la que él mismo había proclamado estaba allí frente a él.

He sent word to Jesus:

Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?

Él le preguntó a Jesús: ¿Eres tú el que ha de venir, o debemos esperar a otro?

You know that Jesus had to be shaking his head when he heard this question:

Am I the one who is to come?


You’re my cousin!

You have seen what I have done!

The blind see. The lame walk. The lepers are cleansed. The deaf hear. The dead are raised. The poor have good news brought to them.

John … what more do you want?!

Ustedes saben que Jesús tuvo que ser moviendo la cabeza al oír esta pregunta:

¿Soy yo el que ha de venir?


Usted es mi primo!

Usted ha visto lo que he hecho.

Los ciegos ven. Los cojos andan. Los que tienen lepra son sanados. Los sordos oyen. Los muertos resucitan. Los pobres se les anuncian las buenas nuevas.

Juan … ¿qué más quieres?!

• • •

What more do you want?

How often is John’s problem our problem?

How often does our vision blind us to God’s vision?

We decide to see the world the way we want to see it.

But in doing so, we miss the world the way it is.

And worse, we miss the world that God wants us to see.

¿Qué más quieres?

¿Con qué frecuencia es el problema de Juan es nuestro problema?

¿Con qué frecuencia nuestra visión nos ciega la visión de Dios?

Decidimos ver el mundo como queremos verlo.

Pero al hacerlo, perdemos de vista el mundo tal como es.

Y lo peor, echamos de menos el mundo que Dios quiere que veamos.

God does not call us to see the world as we want to see it.

God calls us to see the world as it is.

And then … then … God calls us to see the world as it can be.

As God wants it to be.

Dios no nos llama a ver el mundo como queremos verlo.

Dios nos llama a ver el mundo tal como es.

Y entonces … entonces … Dios nos llama a ver el mundo como puede ser.

Así como Dios quiere que sea.

To quote Robert F. Kennedy (who was, actually, paraphrasing George Bernard Shaw[1]):

Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream thing that never were and say, why not?[2]

God wants us to ask, “Why not?”

Roberto F. Kennedy solía decir:

Algunas personas ven las cosas como son, y se preguntan ¿por qué? Yo sueño cosas que nunca fueron y digo, ¿por qué no?

El Buen Señor nos quiere preguntar, “¿Por qué no?”

This is what you are doing in this parish right now.

You are looking at the world around you – at your immediate community – and you are asking yourselves, “Why not?”

Why not create a new vision for this parish?

Why not discern a new way to serve graciously your neighbors and all seekers who come through your doors?

Why not develop a neighborhood ministry that bears God’s hope to Bailey’s Crossroads?

Esto es lo que está sucediendo en este iglesia ahora.

Ustedes están mirando al mundo alrededor de ustedes – en su comunidad inmediata – y que se pregunten, “¿Por qué no?”

¿Por qué no crear una nueva visión de esta iglesia?

¿Por qué no discernir una nueva manera de servir amablemente a sus vecinos y todos los solicitantes que pasan por sus puertas?

¿Por qué no desarrollar un ministerio de barrio que tiene la esperanza de Dios a Bailey’s Crossroads?

In this discernment process, with your vision of embracing all people, you are living into God’s vision for what the world can be and should be.

Con su visión de abrazar a todas las personas, que viven en la visión de Dios por lo que el mundo puede ser y debe ser.

You are like the monk who went to Abba Joseph and asked, “What more should I do?”, to which Abba Joseph replied, as his fingers became like 10 lamps of fire,  “Why not be transformed into fire?”[3]

You are being transformed …

You are refusing to be like John, who in the isolation of prison let his vision imprison him.

Instead of being blinded and imprisoned by your own vision, you are opening yourselves up to God’s vision … of who you are … and of who you can be.

Ustedes están siendo transformados …

Ustedes se niegan a ser como Juan, que la cárcel que su visión encarcelarlo.

En lugar de ser cegado y encarcelado por su propia visión, ustedes están abriendo a sí mismos hasta la visión de Dios … de quien ustedes son … y de quién ustedes pueden ser.

In this season of Advent, we are called to set aside our vision of the world so that we can see God’s vision … a vision of incredible, radical, eternal love.

En este tiempo de Adviento, se nos llama a dejar de lado nuestra visión del mundo para que podamos ver la visión de Dios … una visión del incredible, radical, eterna amor.

We don’t want to be like John the Baptist, who was so focused on his own vision that he was blinded to the vision.

We want to see the vision, Jesus’ vision … of a world where the blind are made to see, and the deaf to hear, and the lame to walk, and the mute to sing with joy …  where the lepers are cleansed and the dead are resurrected and the poor do receive the Good News.

No queremos ser como Juan el Bautista, que estaba tan concentrado en su propia visión de que era ciego a la visión.

Nosotros queremos ver la visión, la visión de Jesús … de un mundo en el que los ciegos se hacen para ver, y los sordos oyen, y los cojos anden, y el silencio para cantar con alegría … donde los que tienen lepra son sanados y los muertos son resucitados, ya los pobres reciben la buena nueva.

That’s Jesus’ vision.

That’s God’s vision … for each of us and for all of us.

Esa es la visión de Jesús.

Esa es la visión de Dios … para cada uno de nosotros y para todos nosotros.

Now is not the time for us to blinded by what we have seen.

Now is the time for us to see what God wants us to see.

A vision of the world as it can be.

Ahora no es el momento de que cegados por lo que hemos visto.

Ahora es el momento para nosotros para ver lo que Dios quiere que veamos.

Una visión del mundo tal y como se puede.

Why not?

¿Por qué no?


[1] George Bernard Shaw, Back to Methuselah, 1921.

[2] Robert F. Kenney, speech at the University of Kansas, 16 March 1968.

[3] The Wisdom of the Desert: Sayings from the Desert Fathers of the Fourth Century, Thomas Merton, New Directions Books, Norfolk, CT, 1960, p. 50.

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Who said anything about ‘gentle’?

I woke up this morning with Advent on my mind.

I was replaying in my head messages from friends and various Advent resources calling this moment in our lives a time of “gentle waiting.”

“Gentle waiting!” I thought. “Why are we engaged in gentle waiting?!?”

I’m fear that we are trying to tame Advent when we make this call. And I don’t think Jesus wants us to do that.

We need to give them clean water.

I mean, what’s gentle about the Gospel lessons we hear in this season? Jesus tells us to keep awake, therefore, for we do not know on what day our Lord is coming. (Do we really imagine that the owner of the house was waiting gently for the thief to come in the night?)

Paul says now is the time for us to awake from sleep, for salvation is nearer to us than before, and commends us to put on the armor of light. (Who puts on armor and then sits gently?)

John the Baptist bellows, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (How can we prepare the way of the Lord and make his paths straight if we aren’t doing something?)

Nowhere in those statements do I hear anything about gentleness.

Advent’s  a wakeup call, all right. But it’s an urgent one. It’s a rough shaking of the shoulder to get us out of bed to do something. This is not your mother leaning over you and gently saying, “Wake up, my love ….” This is Jesus calling, and he’s grabbing you and shaking you and throwing back the sheets and yelling, “GET UP!!!! We have things to do!”

And looking at the world around us, we know that is true. We DO have things to do.

There’s the DREAM Act to be passed. And Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to be repealed. Unemployment benefits need to be extended.

The people in Sudan need our prayers and our advocacy, to prevent yet another war.

The people in Haiti need our help to fight cholera and build a nation devastated by the earthquake.

Those who are sick need our help.

There are hungry people everywhere whom we need to feed, thirsty people who need clean water from us, ailing people who need our medicine and our care. There are children who need our love. The blind desire to see, the deaf want to hear, the mute yearn to sing with joy.

None of these things will be accomplished by gently waiting for someone else to step up. We are the ones who are to make the paths straight.

Advent for me is a time for action. It’s a time for us to look at the world around us and ask, “Is this really what we want to give to Jesus as a birthday gift? A world where so many have so little and we allow that?”

I woke up this morning with Advent on my mind, all right.

The call I heard was crystal clear: “Get cracking! Do the work you’ve been given to do – now! There’s no time to wait for someone else to do the work. Hurry! It’s Advent! Do something!”

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