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Friday, December 14, 2007

Advent 2: Daring to Hope


‘Daring to Hope’

What a theme! Hope is when I have a confident expectation that keeps me going, while I wait and work for it to come to pass! Remember the ‘waiting’ message of last week? “Practice creates Miracles”. I wait confidently; yet hope also calls me to dare to do something towards it.

I Practice; take a few courageous steps into the unknown. Like when we decided to have our new (yet old) home renovated and took the builder's advice to do more! Or when I’m on the internet and looking for a site, and at the bottom of my screen the words “unknown territory” pops up. It’s exciting, yet it’s scary! I’m confident and venturing into the unknown.

When I was ordained I had lots of utopian ideas, like those found in the first reading.
Are these great visions of peace and harmony among peoples just a fairy tale? No; they correspond to the deep longings of the human heart and point to God’s ultimate goal for us. Such visions nurture our souls and our hearts. They give energy to keep waiting, practicing and daring.

John Baptizer. Jesus Messiah : The Darer and the Doer.

John dared people to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” Matthew tells us that the Baptizer was the Voice, the Voice that dares all to “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths”. From his mother’s womb, John’s life was determined by his mission – for he is said to have leapt in her womb at the voice of Mary, the mother of the Doer, Jesus. His call was to prepare us. He did not seek personal fulfilment through his work. He came to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

In our own place and circumstances, we each have a role to play. It calls for some ‘daring-do’. The divine will and purpose, like a link in a chain, depends on each of us obeying the role God’s given to us. Many great things depend on us remembering that we are children of God – that we are divine beings. John Baptizer did what God asked of him – he recalled people to their true nature. He went out daring to do this. Later we are told he did not know Jesus, until he saw a dove descend on him at Jesus’ baptism

And what a result! Allowing for some exaggeration, the whole region around the Jordan and people from Jerusalem and Judea, came out to hear him. Big turn-out! A bit like Christmas Day at Midnight! Yet that was only the beginning. As they heard him, people were said to be, “On the tip toe of expectation”- just what Advent can be for us as we practise our waiting. Many were baptized, acknowledging they’d “missed the mark”, through forgetting they were God’s. John Baptizer dared, and many had a burden lifted – not in the temple or by the priests – but in the desert and by the Voice and baptism water.

If John was the Darer, Jesus was the Doer: he also came to be baptized. Jesus did this to identify with John’s mission and with the people seeking God’s coming. Together they brought Hope into view. Hope became the people’s new Horizon. The Voice did his work. John Baptizer saw the utopian vision beginning – it must have been exciting to see folk coming with a longing to hear the word of the Lord. And doing it for themselves!

How daring was John?

John showed courage when he took on the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism.
“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Produce good fruit worthy of your repentance.” They were quick to condemn the non-religious and I think John threatened them with his tongue in his cheek!

“Vipers”! They were slithering down to the Jordan, and John was not afraid of them, even if they were poisonous. That takes some daring-do! Have you ever spoken boldly to someone to make the point? I have a few times. I once told the son of a friend, who was on drugs, that he was on the “road to hell’. He agreed - though his parent’s friends thought I was wrong! His mum and dad did not!

“Who warned you to flee from coming wrath?” Not a concept we associate with Jesus and God. Can God be said to be wrathful, angry with us? John did. Maybe he had a point, that hypocrisy and not loving others, displeases God. Certainly Jesus got angry on several occasions. I prefer to think of wrath as my receiving the consequences of my own actions. “What you sow, you will also reap.” What goes around, comes around.

“And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘ we have Abraham as our father’.” In other words, ‘whatever your family tree, you’re on your own, here boys!’ Each one must be responsible for him or her self. This is a strong theme in Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Elijah – the one John is most like, fiery and challenging. You’ve been baptized as children of God – so bear the fruits of this Baptism. Live like the divine beings you are.

Taking responsibility for yourself is what’s being dared here. It can be mighty uncomfortable. It’s almost like shedding your skin, as snakes do, so as to grow into a new one. Yet, Utopia will be made up of those who are responsible for themselves, ready to shed the old skin and dare to do.

Being a Darer-Doer
This is to be a people of hope, followers of the Jesus Way. Courageous and responding to the deep longings God has placed in your human heart. Daring to act from the vision. Courageously taking up the cross to bring new life. Boldly being a voice for the vision of love, harmony and Jesus the Christ. “Dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone”.

Here’s some ways : “Practise Creates Miracles” So try making these ones!

• Remember each day, say to yourself, “I am a son, a daughter, of the Living God – I’m divine. When upset or distressed, stop and be calm. Remember who you are. And let the life of Jesus flow!

• Speak tenderly whenever you “hear” the deep longings of another person’s heart, they are part of God’s plan, a step they can take to bring more of heaven to earth.

• Speak more boldly than you usually do, when you hear a person going down a road that leads to death, to loss of dignity, of themselves.

• Be in touch with your own deep longings, take a moment each day to think “Have I been true to my hopes?” Share them with us. Ask how Jesus and John can guide you?

• Take responsibility for the things in others, that make you angry. These tell you the matters you do not like in you!

The Bird of Hope

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
Did it ask, a crumb of me.

By Emily Dickinson
(from Sunday Liturgies)

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