ADVENT 3B: Anointed to This Messy Work

Some ramblings on this week’s Lectionary readings…

During Advent, the Lectionary invites us to read some familiar texts, texts that many of us could almost recite from memory. But if we think that it is just a repetition of the same things as last year, we are very mistaken. We are different; the world is different. And God calls us to walk a little bit farther in the journey, even if it’s only a tiny step closer than last year.

Isaiah 61: 1-11
So what does it mean to have the Spirit of the Lord upon me, to be anointed by the Lord, as the servant is here? This is a pretty tall order–to be sent to build up, raise up, and repair. After all, things were pretty much a mess. So we look to the servant to fix things, to make life well again. But, there, as early as verse 3, the pronouns begin to change. The single servant becomes a “they”, those who are fitted with a mantle of praise. A mantle is something that covers or envelops. In essence, that “anointing” to do the Lord’s work has been passed on and “they” have inherited the covenant. And all those who come after the servant–generations and generations of descendents–are the “they”. We are the “they”, those with the Spirit of the Lord upon us, those anointed, those sent to build up, raise up, and repair. This is a pretty tall order. After all, things are pretty much a mess. What are we waiting for? Yes, being anointed by God’s Spirit is messy work. It’s a good thing we don’t have to do it alone!

1 Thessalonians 5: 16-24
That’s what it says here…we are not alone! As it says at the beginning, there are those who labor among us; after all, remember, we are the COMMUNITY of faith. It is together that we build up, raise up, and repair. Here, we are admonished to be careful about not quenching the Spirit. For ourselves, that means to attend to our own spiritual life through prayer and thanksgiving and remembering who and whose we are. But I think this also warns us against quenching the Spirit of our fellow laborers. We are not all the same. We come from different pasts and we journey by way of different futures. It is the diversity within our community that anoints with God’s Spirit. And while it is sometimes much more comfortable to march in ranks of sameness, with our collective voices drowning out those who do not speak the way we do, that “rank and file” mentality makes is difficult for God to come into our midst. Because the God of peace is wanting to “sanctify us entirely”, our bodies, our minds, our souls, our community, the world. That is this building up, raising up, and repairing to which we are called. But how can we see that if we only open our eyes to our own needs and our own way of thinking?

John 1: 6-28
Whatever you have to say about John the Baptist (after all, it is hard for some of us to identify with a camel’s hair-wearing, locust-eating, loud-mouthed wilderness wanderer screaming at everyone to repent!), he took his job seriously. He understood that he was called by God to point to the light as well as that which is illuminated by the light. In other words, he did not get lost in rhetoric about Jesus as the light without realizing the purpose of the light itself. And that is probably what makes us so uncomfortable with John. We would rather the light be allowed to remain in our thinking depicted as a warm and comfortable place to be. We would rather live under the notion that Jesus’ light is just for us so that we can see our way to God. We would rather bask in its illumination without looking at what it now enables us to see in a different light. But, as our Lectionary readings imply today, it is not really about us! That light that came into the world came not only to show us where to go; it also came to show us what needs to be done. Remember, we are anointed, filled with God’s Spirit, now basking in the Light of Christ. And we can no longer close our eyes to what the light has shown us. We can no longer close our eyes to hunger and homelessness, to destruction and waste, to violence and war, or to exclusion of any of God’s laborers from the work to which they are called. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory…full of grace and truth.

So, go and build up, raise up, and repair!

Grace and Peace,

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