St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church

Vancouver, B.C.

Phone: 604-877-1789

E-mail: office@stmarymags.ca

Office hours: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 10:30 am - 1 pm

The Anglican Parish of St. Mary Magdalene

2950 Laurel Street at West 14th Avenue

Vancouver, BC, V5Z  3T3

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Sunday Eucharist

10:30 am


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Wednesday 7:00 pm


Diocese of New Westminster Anglican Church of Canada

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Sermon


November 10th Advent 1,  2019                John Marsh


Haggai 1:15b-2:9; Psalm 145:1-5, 17-21; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17; Luke 20:27-38


A thought in honour of Remembrance Day:


At the beginning of events, when war and the military have cachet, those in power are always present and filled with enthusiasm.


In the time of endings, when the consequences of violence are embodied and the emotional and physical scars of war cost those with names and personal stories, those in power seem to forget.


Perhaps, if we could reverse this process, refusing to forget the costs of violence – the physical, economic, emotional, spiritual costs – we would be prepared to do the work of non-violent resistance to injustice, oppression, all forms of systemic and interpersonal violence. Perhaps then, shalom would have cachet – so I hope and pray…

~

Advent is a time of waiting, waiting for something to come…


Truth to tell, I have trouble waiting…


Being generally impatient, I want to get on with it…


Yet sometimes, so I’m learning, it may be worth the wait...


I’m learning that something may be going on within the waiting…


I’m learning that there is value in the waiting and any wisdom I have – I have precious little – leads me to wait upon the waiting, to be reserved yet more open, less specific about what one may be waiting for…


This may seem counter intuitive but to wait upon the waiting lies in the hoping, the openness of the wait rather than whatever is waited for…


Waiting is, hopefully, a time of listening, of reflection, a time of consideration, of conversation, perhaps a time of the art of making community…


I’m learning, so I pray, that working is not opposite of waiting but what you do while you wait…


Perhaps - perhaps, waiting is a time for a set of community disciplines, a time, as I said, of listening, discerning and working for, working toward, a call within a desire, an invitation within a lure…


Perhaps…


Victor Frankl, in his book, Mans’s Search for Meaning, perhaps surprisingly observed, during the time of his incarceration in Nazi concentration camps, that those most would select as likely to survive – the robust, the physically strong – were the ones least likely to survive, often the first to go. Perhaps paradoxically, it was not those with a vibrant physicality but those with an inner something, perhaps some hope, some desire, perhaps someone, some love, something beyond self, who, sometimes despite frailties, survived.


What does this prove – nothing!


Yet I’m haunted by the story, by the survival, by those waiting day after day within the tedium of hardship and the pervasive threat of violence…


I’m haunted by the possibility that something was stirring within, albeit something weak considering the embodied might of guards and the directed violence, the depraved indifference of the camps, something perhaps pushing the ineffectual yet nevertheless a haunting presence, something beyond presence, something stirring within the specificity of any naming….


Those of faith may wish to say that this stirring was god, spirit, the holy – perhaps it was – but truthfully, all we can say is that something was stirring, something within but not contained by any name, a hoping in something coming yet truthfully, we know not what...


Given the seasonal draw, the liturgical weight of Advent, given the allure of a name, the desire to specify identity is perhaps understandable – most of us, most of the time, want to know what or for whom we wait – for most of us, the name shapes, directs the hope...


Yet herein lies the danger, for as we specify the hope, as we objectify that for which we wait, we risk ruling out otherness, other options, other possibilities…


Fixing our hopes, our waiting becomes a determined, defended position and, as with most defense, quickly becomes an increasingly violent offence…


We may want, yearn, to ‘Wait for the Lord’ but, while an invitation may be stirring within the waiting, should we be surprised that ‘the Lord’ inspires greater specificity, specificity demands a greater hearing, a greater hearing increasingly requires obedience which raises the spectre of disobedience and disobedience requires response, a response rapidly escalating in severity…


Herein lies the failures, the restrictive dance of fundamentalisms left or right, theist or atheist...


As John Caputo perceptively says, ‘Fundamentalism is very difficult for me to understand because it really does seem to me to be perfectly crazy… It is a testimony to religion’s depth or power that it’s capable of this sort of extremism, but it is the perfect example of treating something that is inherently deconstructable as undeconstructable.’ ¹…


Can we not, therefore, perhaps, pull back – value waiting, value something stirring within, something coming without knowing exactly what?


Can we value waiting while seeing in a mirror only dimly?²


If we can value the wait, can we wait with some maturity?³


And if waiting, what do we do while we wait?


Now, if you have waited, you know that waiting is not a passive exercise – it is filled with anticipatory energy…


Energy which, if not attended to, becomes increasingly anxious and dangerously unpredictable...


So why not work with that energy, seeking to live hope...


Or as Paul would say,


Seeking to ‘Live in Christ’…


Or as the Gospels would say,


Seeking to ‘Live the reign of god’…


Of course, this gives rise to another question:


What do we mean when we say, ‘seeking to live hope’, ‘seeking to live in Christ’, ‘seeking to live the reign of god?’


Perhaps it means to emphasize ‘waiting’, being open about hope,  open about the meanings of ‘in Christ’ or the meanings of the reign of god…


Perhaps it means seeking Christ, working for the reign of god, the goal always elusive, always luring us onward. Remember it is not those who say lord, lord who will enter the reign of god. (See Matthew 7:21. See also Matthew 25:31 – 45).


Perhaps we mean responding to a call of Jesus, a call of god, never quite certain we’ve heard or if we’ve responded well…


Perhaps it means seeking to live, to embody personally and politically invitations stirring, luring within - compassion (love), justice, generosity and reconciliation…


Perhaps it means forever talking about how we are doing – do you sense an argument brewing?


Perhaps we mean, if I may paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi ‘seeking the change you wish to see in the world’.


Perhaps it means seeking what is going on when we say we love god⁴…


Perhaps it means the embrace of traditions – the practice of prayer, the practice of radical hospitality, the practice of generosity, the practice of respect and reconciliation, the practice of justice, the practices of love and compassion which stir within, practices which haunt our hearts…


Perhaps this is what it means to be ‘all the saints’ – committing to the pragmatic practices of our way...


Perhaps we mean waiting within, valuing that, ‘every moment is a door through which the messiah could enter’


Perhaps, instead of endlessly rehearsing what we cannot do and why, perhaps we can practice ways of hearing, discerning and acting upon how we best respond to god stirring within life…


Perhaps, if we can wait with such maturity, such faithful uncertainty, if we can embrace seeking within unknowability, perhaps, we can sing…


Wait for the Lord, whose day is near Wait for the Lord, be strong take heart




 ¹ See John Caputo, After the Death of God (Columbia University Press) p.151.

 ² See 1 Corinthians 13:12

 ³ What I mean by this is somewhat akin to awaiting Christmas, celebrating the incarnation while knowing Santa is but a fantasy, an expression of magical thinking. The question is, can we let go of magical thinking masquerading as ‘god talk’, as theology, as faith, responding to life, to a compassion, a justice stirring within the name of god? Perhaps, hoping against hope, we can even sense something stirring, although it is deeply buried, within the name of Santa.

 ⁴ With regard to whatever may be going on in the name of god, may we consider the following, ‘God is in front of us as the name of something that we desire with a desire behind desire, the name of an absolutely open-ended future, of an “event” that simmers as a certain “perhaps”.’ See Caputo, After the Death of God p.150.

 A comment made by the Jewish philosopher and cultural critic Walter Benjamin.