Advent thoughts...

And so it begins:  Advent 1 is upon us.  Here are some random thoughts as this reflective season ripens...

+ Last night I watched a TV broadcast of a local Roman congregation using the new Catholic Sacramentary.  It seemed rather stilted and awkward to me, but the young priest is very committed to being a good soldier so I'm sure he'll make it work.  Still, I was struck by the convoluted nature of the Eucharistic Prayer - very confusing - and the insistence on using the word "chalice" time and again. Man, did that strike a sour note in my soul. To hear Jesus supposedly speaking of the "chalice" not only sounded more like the current Magisterium than the Lord to me, but was waaaay too imperial for my maturing earthy spirituality.

To be sure, I am steeped in the language and theology of Vatican II with its "clean, simple and elegant" liturgy. And I am a totally Reformed pastor, too who resonates with the down to earth language of Iona. I guess the best I can say is that I trust the Lord more than any institutional manifestation; because in spite of the Church - Roman and Reformed and Orthodox - Christ is alive within and among us regardless of the words we use.  Good luck, sisters and brothers, it will be a LONG time before I can get my head and heart around the new words!

+ I have started an Advent discipline of praying the Psalms of the season.  Today began with Psalm 80 which has been described as a communal lament.  It is appropriate that Advent begin with a lament, yes?  Apparently, 70% of the psalms are laments - a fact that Peterson says escapes contemporary society.

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock!
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.
Stir up your might,
and come to save us!

Restore us, O God;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.

O Lord God of hosts,
how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears,
and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us the scorn
of our neighbours;
our enemies laugh among themselves.

Restore us, O God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.

You brought a vine out of Egypt;
you drove out the nations and planted it.
You cleared the ground for it;
it took deep root and filled the land.
The mountains were covered with its shade,
the mighty cedars with its branches;
it sent out its branches to the sea,
and its shoots to the River.
Why then have you broken down its walls,
so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?
The boar from the forest ravages it,
and all that move in the field feed on it.

Turn again, O God of hosts;
look down from heaven, and see;
have regard for this vine,
the stock that your right hand planted.

They have burned it with fire, they have cut it down;

may they perish at the rebuke of your countenance.
But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand,
the one whom you made strong for yourself.
Then we will never turn back from you;
give us life, and we will call on your name.

Restore us, O Lord God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon notes that three different times the Psalm asks God to restore or convert us.  "Neither conversion nor salvation is a once-and-for-all thing in Holy Scripture, where the often repeated command to 'repent' appears invariably in the Greek present imperative tense. This grammatical form means something much closer to 'keep on repenting."

I asked the people in worship this morning to join me in praying the Psalms of Advent - and a number took home the lectionary for this season - because this is yet another way we can be God's people together.  The Psalm speaks of God's people as both a flock and a vine - a community under the care of a shepherd - and a vine transplanted from the oppression of Egypt to the freedom on the Promised Land.  "What is the condition of our vine?" asks the Reverend Donald Collins.  This is not just a personal question - although it is fine to start there - but also a congregational and national inquiry, too?

As I watched the Fox News version of feminism last night, one of the female commentators said something like, "And just to prove how morally bankrupt the Occupy Wall Street movement is, imagine this:  they actually called for us to boycott Black Friday!  Stat home instead of shop!  Well, we NEED to be doing MORE shopping because our economy is in the dumpster and they are asking people to stay at home."  Imagine... NOT buying more unnecessary junk!  Imagine... NOT fighting with a stranger over a box of towels - or a $200 flat screen TV - in a big box store!  Imagine... NOT needing a security guard to pepper spray you while Christmas shopping because you act more like a badger with a carcass than women and men created in God's image!  Imagine...

Restore us, O Lord God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.


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