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

Sermon

December 13th Advent 6, 2020     John Marsh


Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; Psalm 126 or Luke 1:46b-55; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28


Directions for Hearing


The heart of the following homily is at depth, stirring within the texts themselves. As with all creation, spirit – if there is such – is perhaps ever active within these texts – within the writing, within the hearing and within reflections throughout time. So, hear what this curious holy ghost, this spectral spirit, is saying to the church.


(By the way, that’s us!)


As with all deep listening drowsiness may occur; if drowsiness does occur – dream well, spirit, elusive as always, quite possibly haunts all forms of consciousness…



Truth to tell, we are in a time of theopoetic import, a time of story, songs, poems, metaphors, and symbols, pointing to the deeper levels of our humanity, perhaps among the deepest truths which can be imagined and shared…


Actually, as long as we are in a truth telling mode, time is more theopoetic than a chronological numbers game; we are spooked by time, time ticking, slipping by, as we wait, as we wait for something to come…


Time postpones, perhaps threatens promise yet does not erase promise…


Time slips and slides, promise haunts – promise carried on the winds of time is not theological proposition seeking successful implementation but a hauntological hope; promise spooks us, it introduces hope; we are haunted by hope…


Yet, truth to tell, if honesty holds, what is hoped for, what is hoped to be a holy ghost may prove to be wholly ghastly, there is no guarantee, no certainty of outcome…


As we are so spooked by promise, haunted by hope, perhaps, perhaps something is emerging, submerging, within history, moving within memory, spectrally sailing, slipping, and sliding, swooping in a manner elusive...


Perhaps we will be, are, spectrally disturbed, disquieted, by a very holy ghost calling, calling for justice, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, hospitality, love, a time of Jubilee…


If we may so name, as spirit spectrally haunts, perhaps we will be, are, invited, cajoled, troubled, lured, tantalized on edges of darkness…


Yet is it possible – remember I’m just asking – spirit is a darkness offering respite from ever searching dominant, conventional light, perhaps life within strife, a new strength emerging within weakness…


So, in honour of a spectral haunting, as one forever in debt to such disturbance, I wish to invite us to go ‘walk about in a land down under’...


To go ‘walk about in a land down under’ is not to travel to an expected continent; it is to open to dreamtime – that place just below but never fully removed from our consciousness, never dependent upon but always involved with life as we see and feel it…


Some call this the collective unconscious, some a morphic resonance field – I prefer a poetic expression, ‘dreamtime’ – truth to tell, it has many names…


So, let’s go walk about...


~


But first, as an aid to understanding, theopoetically speaking, know that dreamtime has an energy of its own…


It has tone… (a singing bowl is sounded)


It has ‘music’ resonating within… (the opening of Magnificat is sung)


It has story, narratives of ‘days gone by’ framing tomorrow’s hope within this moment’s madness…


 ‘When the Holy One restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream...our mouth was filled with laughter.’                                                                                                                                                       Psalm 126:1-2a


This ‘land down under’ is, perhaps, an underlying matrix within all creation from which all life emerges and returns…


All contemplative/meditative practice is sitting before/sitting within this cosmic matrix, which some name as opening to an embrace of that named as god, love, others leaving the experience unnamed...


Within dreamtime, a theopoetic construction, we encounter something, perhaps expressing unity within infinite difference – one in the many...many in the one…


Within dreamtime, in a ‘land down under’, for some, divinity’s voice echoes, perhaps resonating with a new voice…old songs newly sung…spirit, a holy ghost haunting, breaching the surface of consciousness with memory’s new mission – an unleashing of hope at work within story, song, and parable…

And so, as ones who dream, let us notice texts of collective memory within a spectral ebb and flow...

~

Many centuries ago, deep within theopoetic memory, Hannah had a song:

Hannah prayed and said,
‘My heart exults in the Lord;
   my strength is exalted in my God…
The bows of the mighty are broken,
   but the feeble gird on strength.
Those...who were hungry are fat with spoil...
The Lord...raises up the poor from the dust;
   he lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes... (I Samuel 2:1ff)


Hannah’s voice echoing within collective memory…

...surfaces centuries later resonating with a new voice…old songs newly sung… a spectral spirit, a holy ghost haunting, breaching the surface of consciousness with memory’s new mission – perhaps unleashing a new hope at work within story and song…

  And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
   and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour...
He has shown strength with his arm;
   he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
   and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
   and sent the rich away empty.  (See Luke 1:46ff)


~

Century upon century prophetic imagination expresses hope amidst outrage, demanding, luring action in just response to unjust irresponsibility...


... What does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
   and to walk humbly with your God?   (Micah 6:8)


Micah’s voice echoing within collective memory...

...surfaces centuries later resonating with a new voice…old songs newly sung… a spectral spirit, a holy ghost haunting, breaching the surface of consciousness with memory’s new mission – perhaps unleashing a new hope at work within story and prophetic protest…


For I the Lord love justice,
   I hate robbery and wrongdoing;
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
   and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. (Isaiah 61:8)

~

As time goes by, echoes of hope are retold in dreams, song, prayer and story shared. In lives lived and longings active, new shoots of hope are sown in a ‘land down under’…


The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
   because the
Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
   to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
   and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the
Lord’s favour… (Isaiah 61:1-2a)


The prophet’s voice echoing within collective memory…

...surfaces centuries later resonating with a new voice…old songs newly sung… a spectral spirit, a holy ghost haunting, breaching the surface of consciousness with memory’s new mission – perhaps unleashing a new hope at work within story, good news proclaimed…


When [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
  because he has anointed me
  to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
   and recovery of sight to the blind,
     to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ (Luke 4:16-21)


~


Century upon century of prophetic proclamation stirs a reimagining...


 A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the
Lord,
   make straight in the desert a highway for our God (Isaiah 40:3)


A prophet’s voice echoing within collective memory…

...surfaces centuries later resonating with a new voice…old songs newly sung… a spectral spirit, a holy ghost haunting, breaching the surface of consciousness with memory’s new mission – perhaps unleashing stirrings of a new hope at work within story…


 This is the testimony given by John when the… priests and Levites from Jerusalem…[asked] him, ‘Who are you?’ He confessed…’I am not the Messiah.’ And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ ‘ Then…who are you? What do you say about yourself?’ He said, ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord” ’, as the prophet Isaiah said. (John 1:19-23)


~


Century upon century of prophetic promise stirring imaginations promise...


They shall build up the ancient ruins,
   they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
   the devastations of many generations. (Isaiah 61:2-4)


A prophet’s voice echoing within collective memory…

...surfaces centuries later resonating with a new voice…old songs newly sung… a spectral spirit, a holy ghost haunting, breaching the surface of consciousness with memories new mission – perhaps unleashing stirrings of a new hope at work …


The kingdom of God is among you. (Luke 17:21b)


Yeshua’s voice echoing within memory…

...surfaces throughout the centuries resonating with a new voice…old songs newly sung… a spectral spirit, a holy ghost haunting, breaching the surface of consciousness with memory’s new mission – perhaps unleashing stirrings of a new hope at work within my story, our story, all history…


So...be like those who dream:


Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; give thanks… Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.                      (I Thessalonians 5:16-22)


Listen, listen…


Hear what a spectral spirit, a holy ghost haunting, is saying to the church!


And by the way, that’s us!