St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church

Vancouver, B.C.

Phone: 604-877-1788

E-mail: office@stmarymags.ca


The Anglican Parish of St. Mary Magdalene

2950 Laurel Street at West 14th Avenue

Vancouver, BC, V5Z  3T3

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Diocese of New Westminster Anglican Church of Canada

Home Who We Are UAM What Is On Sermons Contact Us

November 29th Advent 4,   2020   John Marsh


Isaiah 64:1-9; Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:24-37



Here we are at Advent 4, for others it is Advent 1, either way it is Advent, a time of preparation, a time of waiting, perhaps a time of expectations, of hopes, yearnings as we wait for something to come…


In and of itself, of this, I have no problem…


Truth to tell, my concern is not with standard religious tropes, the usual hermeneutic, but with the standard becoming standardized, wiping away the hermeneutic circle, burying, obscuring, hermeneutic hopes disturbing the triumphalist march of an interpretation seen as inevitable, as self authenticating…


Perhaps we can risk honesty and admit that what is to come, has not, hence our prayer ‘Your kingdom come’…


So let’s approach today’s lections theopoetically, exposing confessional (conventional) theology all the way down, exposing theology’s, the church’s, foundation, revealing cracks and strains, fractures and instabilities, exposing that we all build on shifting sand, releasing the poetics, the ‘art’ of the song and the dance, of word and worry, of hope and horror and the intertwining therein…


To be clear, the issue is not that we build on shifting sand but how we build…


So, in the face of the conventional, we counter the season with ‘lament’.


From within the Hebrew bible’s ‘playlist’ – if I may so suggest – there comes spirituals and blues, songs hope and sorrow, songs of promise and pain, songs of lament and longing, songs to be sung, honoured, songs to be voiced…


Stir up your might...


Stir up your might, come to save us...


Restore us…


Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved¹


Restore us, O God… restore us…because you hid yourself…


Because you hid yourself, we transgressed…


Because you hid yourself, there is no one who calls on your name, no one who attempts to

take hold…


Yet…we are your clay…the work of your hand…we are your people²


So, tear open the heavens and come down³


Tear, tear open the heavens, stir up your might...come to save us...


Restore us, O God…


Restore us, let your face shine, that we may be saved



In a world severely stressed, we risk reading, singing, and praying, perhaps responding to ‘lament’…


Lament is a form little known in dominant culture, even less appreciated in conventional religiosity; it is a faith form birthed of depths, formed within souls seared by society; it is a form rooted in expectant hope, taking seriously faith, hope, and love, these three, these three perhaps deeply buried;  it has little patience with the plastic piety of ‘praise music’ or the flaccid flattery of the market gods.


Lament is a faith form intensely personal and communal – its purpose is not instructional; it is but a song sung, a song sung stirring, luring; it is not distracted by abstractions or placated by the ubiquitous seasonal optimism of consumerism as therapy.


Lament is...


            Explosive in its expectancy...


                   Disturbing in its honesty...


                         Unsettling in the mutuality of its expectation...


                                 We haven’t/you didn’t...


                                           We must/you should...


Lament is a spiritual, spirituals and blues, songs that do not languish in the cool cul-de-sacs of fatuous faith – songs hot, passionate, ablaze with fire...a fire that does more than simply illumine - lament heats up, burns; it is red hot, white hot – boiling, roiling relationality – expecting change, demanding change, admitting to the fear of change – songs which stir and lure…


Lament is a faith form forged of the heat of promise and the hammering of experience upon the anvil of commitment luring...


It is faith risking despair, daring hope, and demanding accountability in dark nights.


Lament is a call, a call for a how and a when…


It is a song sung, a lament voiced, which is the point; lament is not really, if you think about it – I pray you do – a song sung to a who or a what – it is a song sung…


The song sung calls, calls for a how, a when, an action, a song spooking our hope, haunting our dreams…


This haunting is the white hot of lament, a song sung to the ‘to come’, a spiritual, a blues riff exposing blemishes, revealing problems, horrors, every falling short of the ‘to come’, a song sung within hope stirring, demanding…


Lament is not convention expressed, it is interventional not conventional, a song sung, praying, demanding… it is not settled and sedimented; it intervenes, interrupts our slumber, forcing us awake perhaps assaulting our senses, our sensibilities; advent, if it is a waiting, is waiting with interruptive expectation, intervening conventions placid course; it is a performance, an enacting of a calling…


So, let’s listen again…


Stir up your might...


Stir up your might, come to save us...


Restore us…


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


Restore us, O God… restore us…because you hid yourself…


Because you hid yourself, we transgressed…


Because you hid yourself, there is no one who calls on your name, no one who attempts to

take hold…


Yet…we are your clay…the work of your hand…we are your people…


So, tear open the heavens and come down…


Tear, tear open the heavens, stir up your might...come to save us...


Restore us, O God…


Restore us, let your face shine, that we may be saved…


Such expectant hope surfaces the content of our despair, the contours of our yearnings and expresses our expectations of grace.


‘Tear, tear open the heavens and come down’ - for we’re torn by what’s been done and left undone.


‘Tear, tear open the heavens and come down’- attend to our tears because of inflicted tears, because of souls seared…torn up...torn asunder...torn apart...


Tear open...come down...because we are all torn down...torn up...torn asunder...torn apart...


Such expectant hope surfaces the content of our despair, the contours of our yearnings and expresses our expectations of grace.


‘Tear, tear open the heavens and come down’ – for we’re torn by what’s been done and left undone.


‘Tear, tear open the heavens and come down’ – attend to our tears because of inflicted tears, because of souls seared…torn up...torn asunder...torn apart...


This is not the usual plastic piety of enforced or expected confession - ‘Bless me father for I have sinned’ - but an awareness, a mindfulness more vigorous in its honesty, more virtuous in its expectancy, more disturbing in its accountability…


This is the vibrancy of an honest, mutually accountable prayer, a faith transcending convention; a faith  seriously mindful of the change required of all, us and that named as god – change acknowledging desires, hopes and possibilities; a demanding plea for change uttered in the face of suffering.


And so, as a people hoping, we pray…


Stir up your might...come to save us...Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.⁵ (Psalm 80:2b-3)


This is the advent of expectant waiting, expectant waiting exploding the passivity of those gods who are little more than the guarantors of the status quo, guardians of convention…


Lament is not convention expressed, it is interventional not conventional, a song sung, praying, demanding… it is not settled and sedimented; it intervenes, interrupts our slumber, forcing us awake perhaps assaulting our senses, our sensibilities; advent, if it is a waiting, is waiting with interruptive expectation, intervening convention’s placid course; it is a performance, an enacting of a calling…


It is the dangerous advent of voices thundering:


Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come...And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake! (Mark 13:33, 37)


This is incarnating the grace of a disturbing transformation in which we converse not with silent symbols but with calls, impossible calls demanding authenticity and justice…


And really, if we pause and reflect, do we dare demand anything less!


 ¹ Psalm 80:2b-3

 ² See Isaiah 64:5b-9.

 ³ See Isaiah 64:1.

 ⁴ Again, see Psalm 80:2b-3.

Consider the repetitive rhythms within Psalm 80 where ‘Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved’ or variants are repeated throughout the psalm.

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