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Archive for Advent

Advent: “Wait Without Hope” is not Pessimistic

In the midst of this advent season of waiting, I invite you to set aside the distractions of the busy-ness of this season to to take a moment of mindfulness.  I invite you to realize the radical transformation that comes from setting aside preconceived ideas. 

This Sunday, we will explore questions raised by T.S. Eliot and other great thinkers to move towards a direct, experiential understanding of what it means to live an awakened life, and to contemplate the meaning of waiting in the words of the poet, TS Elliott:

Wait Without Hope

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth.

https://dailypoetry.me/t-s-eliot/wait-without-hope/

We may not be ready for thought unless we’ve trained our minds in mindfulness. Our love may be tainted by selfish attachment.  Let us begin —be still, even if for a moment. And now, “wait without hope.” Isn’t that pessimistic? I venture to say, no, it is not pessimistic. Optimism is good, hope can get in the way.

Is it better to acknowledge our desire, to understand its context, and to wait without hope? Yes, I think so. Then we can watch the spectacle unfold with pleasure and equanimity. If we cling to hope, we make ourselves vulnerable to disappointment, anger, and frustration.

 

What are you waiting for?

The words “breath,” “wind,” and “spirit” are used interchangeably to remind us that God is always coming to us.  Become aware of your breath. Notice how breathing more deeply calms you. Notice how long you can hold your breath to remember how essential it is for your life. The Living God, or the God of Life, seeks to come to dwell within us and to give new life to us and through us. 

 Advent calls us to pay attention and to anticipate what “the God who comes to us” wants to do within us and through us. So, we wait in hope of what yet may be.  This process of waiting in hope, is active, not passive. 

 
Join us this Sunday as we continue to awaken to the new life full of hope, peace, joy, and love that God is calling each one of us, by name, into. 
 
What are you waiting for? 

Blessings,  Pastor Laurie 

 

“Let Us Walk in the Light of Our God”

copyright nathan mcbride 2018 unsplash

In this season of Advent, may you walk in the light of peace! God bless you and thank you, for the privilege of serving as your minister.

An Advent Reading

Some day,

the Lord’s house will be there,

on that highest mountain.

And people will climb the mountain

and learn, from the Lord, how to live.

And they will spread the word to others,

so that everyone will know

how to act in the right way.

No nation shall invade another nation.

No, never again shall anyone be trained for war.

Swords shall be hammered into plows for the farm,

and spears recycled into tools for the garden.

Come,

let us all walk in the light of the Lord. 

                             adapted from Isaiah 2:1-5

Isaiah reminds us that Advent is about creating a new world in which there will be only one center, one people, one Light and one reason to be. “The mountain of God’s house shall be established as the highest mountain . . . and all nations shall stream toward it…O house of Jacob, come,” Isaiah pleads. “Let us walk in the light of our God.” 

In this season of advent, let us look up, to the mountaintop, let us walk together in the light of God. 

With love, Pastor Laurie

God’s Time

On this first Sunday of Advent, we begin to prepare for the story of Jesus’ birth with the strangest of readings, near the end of Luke, and just a few lines before the story of his death. 

“When you hear of war and insurrections, do not be terrified, for these things must take place first. But the end will not follow immediately. ‘Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes and famines and plagues, and dreadful portents and great signs from heaven…’” 

He predicts persecution for the disciples. He says “Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days.”  Woe is right!  As in whoa! Ease up, man! We haven’t even digested our Thanksgiving leftovers!

So much for ‘little baby Jesus.’  Instead, we’ve got super serious, super stern sounding, adult Jesus.  What’s more, he goes all kinds of end-timey on us, here!  What does it all mean, especially now in the troubling times we are living in?

This Advent season, we are called to see these troubled times not just as our time, but as God’s time as well. That long view of time which spans millennia and generations, a time which encompasses memory and hope, with God as our mercy and our judge. The season is about God’s coming to us, to be sure, but it’s also about our coming to God,  about our coming to Jesus, returning year after year, and perhaps especially this year, to his prophetic voice of hope, to his way of radically inclusive love, to the long view of human history and with it the long view of our human redemption.  May we heed his call to be on guard, and to be not afraid. May we draw near to that already and not yet day of God, even as it draws near to us. Amen.

     peace, Pastor Laurie 

Advent Bible Studies

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The Spiritual Life Team invites you to join us for Bible Studies in honor of Advent.  And we’ll treat you to coffee, tea, and pastries.
We will meet  9-11am on the first three Saturdays of December.  On Dec. 1 and 8, gather with us at the home of Paula and David Byrens, 2359 Manzanita Drive, Oakland; then we will switch to the Fellowship Hall at church for the Dec. 15 session.

The studies will give us time to reflect on the reasons that the birth and life of Jesus reminded his first followers of Jewish stories and prophecies that they had loved first in Hebrew scripture.  The old and new embraced each other in the Christmas Story. If you want to get a head start on the readings, check out the three topics below. We will focus on the New Revised Standard Version for reading together. Several copies of NRSV and NIV Bibles (popular modern translations) will be available. Bring your other favorites if you would like—so that we can add their voices to the conversation.
     
Dec. 1…IMMANUEL IS THE ANSWER TO A QUESTION
ISAIAH 7-9
MATTHEW 1:22-23

Dec. 8…MRS. M AND THE CLOUD OF SMOKE
JUDGES 13  A WOMAN’S WOMB AND THE STATE OF THE NATION
LUKE 1:5-25,  The barren one, the father, and the virgin
LUKE 2:6-38 Thomas Moore’s commentary has a beautiful translation

Dec. 15…ELIJAH AND ELIJAH RETURNING
1 Kings 16:29- chapter 17
Malachi 4:1-5
Matthew 16:13-16, and 17:1-4, 10-13

Darkness, Blessings, & Miracles

Marilynne Robinson is an American novelist and essayist. She has received several awards including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005 and the 2012 National Humanities Medal. I recently heard a recorded interview between President Obama and Marilynne Robinson, (here on itunes or transcript) on the subject of faith and democracy. It was conversation relevant for us all, particularly in these times of deep darkness, and in this season of advent. In her book, “Gilead“, she writes: 

“Now that I look back, it seems to me that in all that deep darkness a miracle was preparing. So I am right to remember it as a blessed time, and myself as waiting in confidence, even if I had no idea what I was waiting for.” 

“There is a reality in blessing….It doesn’t enhance sacredness, but it acknowledges it, and there is a power in that.”

Peace and Blessings, Pastor Laurie