a regained innocence as an alternative to cynicism in advent...

During this past week, my small part of the world has held these things close in
prayer: the on-going mystery pain that continues to plague Dianne, a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat, the agony of more race violence and fear of the police throughput the USA, the downing of a Russian fighter plane by Turkey, the infectious and healing laughter and hugs of my grandson Louie, the stunning performance of Paul Winter's "Missa Gaia" at church joined by dear musical friends Hal and Linda, a few days of deep rest and quiet, the plight of Syrian refugees and  the anxiety of new domestic terrorism against the Planned Parenthood Center in Colorado Springs, a concert by Arlo Guthrie and a few trips to the pharmacy. I have also cleaned the house, prepared worship notes for the first Sunday in Advent and completed a few books.

At the close of one, Barbara Brown Taylor quotes Rumi whom Dianne has been reflecting on during her illness and I have cherished as a soul guide for the past 25 years. I will use this quote to close my Sunday meditation on the apocalyptic words of Jesus in Luke's gospel:

Today like every other day we wake up empty
and frightened. Don't open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

All around us - every day and always - there is emptiness and fear. Stephen Mitchell notes in both his commentary on Job and his words in "the gospel according to Jesus" that since the beginning of time life has been an embrace of joy and sorrow. It is an illusion with dangerous consequences to conflate the human with the humane. There is always both darkness and light, hope and fear, clarity and confusion. I sense that is why all four Gospels include some version of St. Mark's "desolating sacrilege" passage  This week's version from Luke 21 puts it like this:

It will seem like all hell has broken loose—sun, moon, stars, earth, sea, in an uproar and everyone all over the world in a panic, the wind knocked out of them by the threat of doom, the powers-that-be quaking… But be on your guard. Don’t let the sharp edge of your expectation get dulled by parties and drinking and shopping. Otherwise, that Day is going to take you by complete surprise, spring on you suddenly like a trap, for it’s going to come on everyone, everywhere, at once. So, whatever you do, don’t go to sleep at the switch. Pray constantly that you will have the strength and wits to make it through everything that’s coming and end up on your feet before the Son of Man.

Every day this is true. Every year and every life, too. Advent gives us a chance to remember not only the movement of these polarities in reality but also a chance to honor them.  One of my guides through the liturgical seasons, Gertrud Mueller-Nelson, writes:

During Advent, we are invited to be vulnerable to our longing and open to our hope. Like the pregnant who counts the days till her labor and prepares little things for the child on the way, we count the days and increase the light as we light our candles and prepare our gifts... (First) we turn off all the lights and see how dark it really is... Then we watch the growing light penetrate the darkness as we light the first candle on the first Sunday in Advent.

It is always both: never just the darkness, but never only the light. That is why, I continue to learn, the great contemplatives invite us into quiet prayer: we must know both the hurt of the world and the blessing deep within - know it as a fundamental truth - so that as we engage the world and its people with justice and compassion we are not naive. Or cynical. Cynicism, in my view, is what happens when a big heart is unwilling to do the hard work of the inward journey. Naivete is simply a station in life born of innocence. It can become cynical - or lazy - or even cruel and selfish.after a broken heart or betrayal. It can also mature into a soul sharing compassion and solidarity with profound generosity

Lisa Dougan posted this from the Center for Action and Contemplation:

Our world desperately needs for each of us to be and cultivate activists who are seeking regained innocence, because the work of justice demands more hope and kindness than the cynical activist can offer.

Tomorrow, at the start of worship, I am going to ask one of the ushers to turn off ALL the lights in the Sanctuary. We need to sit quietly for a moment in the semi-darkness. Then we will hear the Advent invitation and light the first candle. I will start an Advent series focusing on prayer and personality temperament, too before closing the day with a "hanging of the green" ceremony after worship. There will be light and darkness, fear and joy, solitude and community. The wounds of this world are weeping for activists who consciously live out of this type of regained and renewed innocence. Because "the work of justice demands more  hope and kindness - tenderness - than the cynic can offer." Lord, may it be increasingly so within and among us.


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