Reflection for Sunday – November 28, 2021
Readings: Jeremiah 33: 14-16; 1 Thessalonians 3: 12- 4:2; Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36
Preacher: Sr. Karen Dietz
“Hope” is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tune without words and never stops at all. -Emily Dickinson
‘May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts” -1 Thessalonians 3: 12
This weekend we begin another Church year with the start of the Advent season. It is often said that Advent is a season of hope. And yet many of us are struggling to hold on to this. All around us are signs of struggle and hopelessness. The realities of COVID-19, the polarization in our world, in politics and even our Church, food insecurity for so many, crisis in the environment, healthcare and the economy and the incredible violence locally and beyond are just a few of the factors pressing down on our hearts.
And the weight of all of this has been with us now for a very long time with not much relief. When I go out to a store or an appointment and chat with others, there is a pervasive heaviness that is hard to escape. There is a common refrain that echoes: “I will be glad when all this is over.”
The season of Advent invites us to wait for the coming of the Christ to our world with patience and expectation. We often spiritualize this by focusing on the coming of the cosmic Christ when all that is dark will be made light; all that is crooked will be made straight; all that is at odds will be reconciled. This year, more than ever, I want to focus my Advent prayer and reflection on the here and now. I feel called to hold the image of the lion laying peacefully beside the lamb before me, as I actively work to be creating the kingdom of God right here where I am. As the author of Thessalonians prays, I want to grow my love for the other more and more, so that my heart can be strengthened.
I have found that the experience of living in a “Covid” world has often left me in a state of limbo, waiting for this to pass so that we can get back to the way things were. When in fact, the way things are at this time is the way they are. So much has changed and many of us have become unmoored. These “unmoored” times have happened before in history and humanity has survived. Changes in approaches and leadership and perspectives have happened. Many of these were for the good of the world, and some were not. In these times of great chaos, both heroes and villains rose to power.
At Bethany House (an emergency shelter for women and children) we are keeping a list of all those killed by violence in Monroe County this year so that we might lift them and their loved ones up in prayer each week. This list, which now covers 2 ½ sheets of poster board, leaves me breathless and feeling powerless. I listen to the guests and staff speak of their fear of simply leaving the house for an appointment or to search for an apartment. I do not want the powerlessness I feel to leave me paralyzed. I feel called to support these women in every way I can and to pray for our city. I want to be a positive influence and I believe the only way I can do that is by maintaining hope in the darkness.
It seems we are in the midst of another tectonic shift, causing chaos and fear. For the last 20 months or so, I, like so many others, have been passively waiting for this to end. In my reflection and prayer, I realize I am being drawn into the chaos to respond to the challenges before me. This is my reality, and I am being called to respond in any and all ways of which I am capable. This takes the shape of buying cereal for the food pantry, offering a prayer for another, writing to a political leader, speaking out at a family function, watching the news with the intent of sending positive energy, and the list goes on. Above all, I am called to be a person of hope who believes in a God who breaks into our world to be present among us, bringing comfort and relief and peace. Emily Dickinson, in her poem “Hope is the Thing with Feathers” speaks of the wordless tune that never stops, and that tune is hope. The Advent season is the time in the Church year when we hold on to hope even in darkness. We are in the darkest days of the year (at least in our part of the world), yet we know that the lighter, longer days are coming. How will you make these four weeks of Advent a time of actively engaging in the waiting? Let us pray for one another, that we not become paralyzed by fear, chaos, and uncertainty. Let us begin by lifting one another up in prayer, that we might all increase our love and strengthen our hearts.