Advent: A Time for Introspective Reflection

Advent starts a new church year. There may be four Sundays in Advent, but our Sunday lectionary readings point us to three primary stories for the season: the end of time (1 Advent), John the Baptist (2 & 3 Advent), and Mary (4 Advent). These stories help us prepare for Christ’s coming, Christ’s advent, into the world. Advent is a wonderful time for introspective reflection and these stories of Advent give us a wonderful launching pad for this task.

 

1 Advent: I am always struck the way that the church year starts with apocalyptic readings about the end. I find it a powerful reminder that the difference between an ending and a beginning is often little more than a matter of perspective. Or, at least, endings always contain beginnings, and beginnings always contain endings. As you reflect on the end of time at the beginning of the church year, you might ask yourself: What endings are happening or need to happen in my life so something new can blossom? What endings do I need to grieve as I start something new?

 

2 & 3 Advent: John the Baptist is the focus on these two Sundays. John is the one who declares, quoting Isaiah, that he is preparing the way of the Lord, the perfect message for us as we prepare ourselves to welcome Jesus. The difference between the two Sundays is the author of the story. On 2 Advent, we hear Mark’s version. On 3 Advent, John the Evangelist’s. A bit after our reading from John’s Gospel, John the Baptist says that he must decrease and Christ must increase. As you ponder John the Baptist these two weeks of Advent, you might ask yourself: what needs to decrease in me so that I can make room for Christ to increase in my life?

 

4 Advent: We are so close to Christmas that we are tempted to think that we are there, but we still have one more Sunday in Advent and this Sunday belongs to Mary. Not Mary giving birth to Jesus in Bethlehem, but Mary still up in Nazareth receiving with trepidation the news that she has been called by God to bear God’s son into the world. And we hear of her courage to say yes to this call. In what ways is God calling you? How is God inviting you to bear Christ in this world? Do you have the courage to say “yes” with Mary?

 

I hope that this Advent is a time for you to inwardly reflect on Christ’s coming and prepare your heart, mind, and soul to welcome his birth at Christmas. Bingham+

 

Originally published as the “Rector’s Closing Thoughts” in the Bellringer, December 2017.   

IMG_1051.JPG

Throw in the Towel and More for Refugees

St. Mary’s Refugee Committee invites you to take part in this Refugee Resettlement Coalition of Lane County (RRCLC) Relief Kit project. Our committee, which includes some great cooks, will be hosting coffee hour after each service on June 18. At that time, we will collect new bath towels and other bucket items, as well as funds for the RRCLC Relief Kit project. There will also be information available about RRCLC and the plight of refugees around the world.

Local Partnerships for Addressing Your Carbon Footprint

Local Partnerships for Addressing Your Carbon Footprint

Recently, St. Mary's Earth Stewards decided to look into local options for counterbalancing carbon outputs, and began working with local organizations to develop the necessary relationships. We agreed that the Long Tom Watershed Council (LTWC) and McKenzie River Trust (MRT) would be the two most appropriate organizations (due to geographic overlap, mission, efficacy, capacity, etc.).

Soil--It's More Than Dirt

In her book, The Soil Will Save Us, Kristin Ohlson recounts the story of being able to push a 4-foot pole down into a farmer's corn field up to her knuckles.  She was able to do it several times in different places, proving that the farmer, Gabe Brown, had completely transformed his soil from the Dust Bowl desert he had purchased into a farm that had become easier and cheaper, not harder and more costly, to run.  

The Kingdom of God is like Piper

Before the movie Finding Dory, there was a charming Disney Pixar Short called Piper (trailer above). A mother sandpiper is encouraging her little piper baby to learn how to forage food for herself. Sandpipers go down to the ocean and when the wave is out, they search for little clams. Bubbles indicate where some of them are, so the sandpipers look for those bubbles and quickly dig and eat before the wave returns. The young sandpiper isn't so sure about having to forage for herself. She wishes her mama would still just feed her, but with some encouragement she tries. It all goes south when a wave completely soaks her. Eventually though, she meets a family of little crabs, and the child in that family teaches the piper a different technique than the sandpipers use: the crabs burrow a little down into the sand, so the wave can't knock them off their feet. Then they are able to see underwater for a brief moment the great abundance of food that the wave has exposed and will be re-covered as soon as the wave recedes. There is so much more food available than the standard piper technique of looking for bubbles identifies. The piper is no longer afraid of the water and is able to harvest the bounty for herself and others using this improved technique.

A written description does not do the story justice; I highly recommend take six minutes to watch it (https://itun.es/us/HFKUeb). Piper has all of the classic Pixar elements: stunning animation, perfect music and sound effects, and a focus on challenge, fear, courage, and growth. I think it is also a metaphor for the kingdom of God.

The kingdom of God is like a sandpiper who is deathly afraid of the ocean and unable to collect the meager harvest, until the day she meets a crab who teaches her how to brace herself in the sand and see the riches that the ocean holds, producing food that was thirty fold, sixty fold, even one hundred fold the average, enough to share with her family and sandpiper neighbors.

Jesus teaches us that the kingdom of God is already among us and within us. We need to learn how to see it. We need to open our eyes. Just like that little sandpiper, we can brace ourselves in the sand and open our eyes when the waves of life roll over us, so that we can see the abundance of God's grace in the midst of all of the difficulty. God's grace is sufficient to nourish us as we face any challenge.

Contemplation: Finding the Eternal in Daily Life

Someone I know recently told me something that Ram Das said: "If you ever begin to think you are enlightened, go and spend a week with your family."

This suggestion speaks to the dynamic within prayer and contemplation that is challenged by daily life….. the natural conflicts that occur, the intermittent chaos, sprinklings of upheaval, anxiety and fear about security in its many forms,

Initial reflections at the end of our Holy Land pilgrimage

Our Holy Land pilgrimage has ended. I am writing these initial reflections while on the plane home. The thirteen of us had a wonderful time exploring the life, time, and places of Jesus. We learned not only about the past - the historic stones - but about the present - the living stones - our sisters and brothers in Christ in the Holy Land. There are many challenges here, but their hope and faith is inspiring. Time and again, I heard the local Christians thank us for coming. Our presence there was an act of solidarity with them and brought them hope.