Presentness.Adv2C.2009

Advent 2C, 2009
Luke 3:1-6

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THE ALWAYS-TO-BE-EXPECTED PRESENTNESS OF CREATIVITY ‘G-O-D’

The church has its own calendar of seasons.
And in that calendar a new liturgical year began last Sunday.

Advent.
The children from the Sunday Club have again
led us in the lighting of an Advent candle.
The second Advent candle.
The ‘peace’ candle.

And in the spirit of Advent we are, once again, invited to
‘keep awake!’... or  ‘stay alert!’
Ears tuned.
Eyes open.

As together we seek to rediscover the God-given “incognito” (John Bell) moments
in our ordinary daily living.

This down-to-earth theme continues today.
So let me offer a few comments as we continue
to reflect on Advent and the coming Christmas seasons.

oo0oo

This morning’s gospel story is built around a bloke we call John.
He is only introduced today.
A fuller development of him is the subject of next week’s story.

But we already know that story from all the tradition
which has been built up around him.

Indeed, we combine everything we know or remember about John,
whenever we hear his name mentioned.
His nickname: ‘dipper’.
His way-out dress and alternative diet.
His call for change, for repentance.
His gruesome end.

One commentator, John Meier, describes ‘dipper’ John as one of two
historical figures who stands at either end of Jesus' life, like bookends.
The other is Pontius Pilate.

But none of that is what interests the storyteller we call Luke right now.
What interests Luke is setting the scene, appropriately.
And it’s a political setting to boot!

All those characters named in the Gospel reading this morning,
are ‘reported’ to be people of power, both political and religious.
Tiberius Caesar
Pontius Pilate
Herod, and his brother Philip
Lysanias, Annas and his son-in-law, Caiaphas.

As to whether they all belong to the same historical time frame, is debatable.
But for Luke they are representative.
Representative of the use, but more often, the abuse, of power.

For Roman imperialism, the ruling over people was achieved
through the deeds and the mantra of, ‘war, victory, peace’.
And imperial rule was always unjust and oppressive.

Jewish historian Philo paints a dark picture of Pontius Pilate:
‘a ruthless despot, by nature rigid and stubbornly harsh... of spiteful disposition and an exceeding wrathful man... the bribes, the acts of
violence, the outrages, the cases of spiteful treatment, the constant murders without trial, the ceaseless and most grievous brutality’.

Out of this repressive situation comes a voice of protest.  The voice of John.
And he begins to offer the people
“who lived under the shadow of Rome and under the burden of Herodian control and taxation a new way to end the pain and uncertainty that plagued their daily lives”
(Horsley & Silberman 1997:34).

In the public mind, John was a major religious figure in the time of Jesus.
So what does Luke’s initial story of John invite us to remember:
Something new is needed.
Think outside the square.
Go beyond the understandings, the answers, you have been given or have acquired.

And that’s where all this fits into the general lectionary theme of Advent.
Discover the God-given “incognito” moments in our ordinary living,
especially in those moments which push the boundaries.

Or, let me put it another way.
Preparing for the coming of God’s realm
means washing and evaluating the lenses through which we
read the Bible or understand God or church or neighbour,
as well as the transformation of life,
individually, politically, and as a society, here and now.

Such sentiments, I reckon, are also behind the reflection we heard
when (N) was our reader earlier on.

From Mother Teresa’s  ‘Longing for God’:
‘We all long for heaven where God is,
but we have it in our power to be in heaven with Him
at this very moment.

‘But being happy with Him now means
Loving as He loves,
Helping as He helps,
Giving as He gives,
Serving as He serves,
Rescuing as He rescues,
Being with Him twenty-four hours,
Touching Him in his distressing disguise’
(Harvey 1996:214.).

oo0oo

Although religious progressives do not expect a literal return of Jesus,
it is essential to our progressive spirituality that we do expect
“continual encounters with (Creativity) God in our personal, social, 
and political lives” (RPregeant/P&F web site 2006).

So both the liturgical function and spirituality of Advent
is to focus on this aspect of life, the always-to-be-expected presentness
of Creativity - ‘God’ in our ordinary living.

In flowering Wattle, Bottlebrush and Jacaranda.
In the ‘click clack’ of two eucalypt tree branches knocking together in the hot Summer wind.
In the scientific imagination of Richard Dawkins...:
“The world and the universe is an extremely beautiful place, and the more we understand about it the more beautiful does it appear.  It is an immensely exciting experience to be born in the world, born in the universe, and look around you and realise that before you die you have the opportunity of understanding an immense amount about that world and about that universe and about life and about why we're here.  We have the opportunity of understanding far, far more than any of our predecessors ever.  That is such an exciting possibility, it would be such a shame to blow it and end your life not having understood what there is to understand" (Radio interview).

In the birth of one’s first child.
In those moments when we choose to live together
loving and caring for each other.

For once again, it is Creativity - ‘God’ who acts in us.
And God in other people, who receive our actions.
Loving, helping, giving, serving.

Notes:
Horsley, R. A. & N. A. Silberman. The Message and the Kingdom: How Jesus and Paul ignited a Revolution and Transformed the Ancient World. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997.
Harvey, A. (ed). The Essential Mystics. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996. 

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