Advent 3A: Hurry Up and Wait!

Seeded FieldLectionary Passage for Reflection:  James 5: 7-10

Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

OK, I have to admit that I am not the most patient person in the world.  (Like THAT’S a big surprise!)  So, this whole Advent notion of waiting and waiting some more is almost too much to bear.  And don’t you hate it when someone tells you to “be patient”.  Grrrr!  Look, you just don’t know what all I have going on in my life.  You just don’t know how hard that is!  (Yeah, I know, that sounds way too familiar for comfort!)  And something about this season makes it even harder.  We have to hurry up and get the tree up!  And then we have to hurry up and get all the shopping done!  And then we have to hurry up and get the gifts wrapped!  And then we have to hurry to the party and hurry with the cooking and hurry with the hurrying.  And, please, please tell us what will happen next so that we can get ready!  So, how in the world with all this hurrying are we expected to be patient, to wait for God’s time to be our own. 

There is a story that you’ve probably heard of an American traveler on safari in Kenya.  He was loaded down with maps, and timetables, and travel agendas.  Porters from a local tribe were carrying his cumbersome supplies, luggage, and “essential stuff.”  On the first morning, everyone awoke early and traveled fast and went far into the bush.  On the second morning, they all woke very early and traveled very fast and went very far into the bush.  On the third morning, they all woke very early and traveled very fast and went even farther into the bush.  The American seemed pleased.  But on the fourth morning, the porters refused to move.  They simply sat by a tree.  Their behavior incensed the American.  “This is a waste of valuable time.  Can someone tell me what is going on here?”  The translator answered, “They are waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies.”

Maybe that’s what this Advent season is–a season of waiting for our souls to catch up.  (So why did they put it in the busiest season of the year!  That doesn’t make sense!)  Whoever wrote this short epistle buried toward the back of the New Testament knew exactly what our problem was.  He or she knew that when we get something in our head, when we set our sights on something, we want it immediately if not last night sometime.  And so, many of us are running around with bodies and souls that are dangling, disconnected, not quite able to reach other, not able to connect.  Stop.  Stop what you’re doing.  Like the farmer, all that you are is planted and fertilized.  Now you have to wait.  You have to wait for God’s Spirit in God’s Time to rain in, drenching the thirsty soil.  Your soul knows how to wait.  There is a Divine Wisdom planted deep within.  The soul moves slowly soaking up everything in life.  Oh, what our minds and bodies could learn from that!  But we have be patient.  Sometimes we have to wait.  And sometimes we might even have to step back and be led to the next place. 

Perhaps rather than living life with the words “hurry up” always on our lips, we should live a life of “Amens”, “so be it”.  Life will be what life will be.  God knows that this is not easy.  There are things that we must finish and there are patches that we want to quickly run through so that we don’t experience the pain or the heartache.  God knows that it is hard to wait.  It is not God’s will that we suffer or that we have difficulties in life.  It is God’s will that we become who God envisioned us to be, that Creation becomes what God meant it to be.  It is all there, planted and fertilized.  But it takes time.  You have to wait.  The time is near but it is not yet right.  There is still more to come.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low, who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow, look now! for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing, O rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing!

For lo! the days are hastening on, by prophet seen of old, when with the ever-circling years shall come the time foretold, when peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendors fling, and the whole world send back the song which now the angels sing.

Edmund H. Sears, 1849

Reflection:  Why are you such a hurry?  What are you missing by hurrying through life?  What is your soul trying to teach you?

Grace and Peace,


Advent 2A: Troublemaker

Nelson Mandela

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, 2“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” 4Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, 6and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.  7But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruit worthy of repentance. 9Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 10Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11“I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Oh, John!  Shhh!  Really, you’re causing problems.  Why are we reading this during Advent?  What happened to Mary?  What happened to Joseph?  What happened to that wonderful story of the journey to Bethlehem leading up to the Holy Birth?  Well, the truth is, John was just a troublemaker.  He came onto the scene with his outlandish dress and his unconventional diet and his loud, brash behavior and his ideas that went totally against the establishment.  This really does not fit with the season, don’t you think?  Yeah, John was a troublemaker.  John was preaching something that the world had not ever heard, preaching something that most did not want to hear, preaching something that could shatter and take down what we knew.  Shhh!  Really, you’re causing problems.  Really, you’re truly a troublemaker.

Fast forward…On July 18, 1918 in the village of Mvezo on the banks of the Mbashe River in Transkei, South Africa, was born a child.  He was named Rolihlahla.  In the Xhosa language, the name means “pulling the branch of a tree,” but more commonly is translated as “troublemaker”.  Attending a Methodist school as a child, he was given the English name of “Nelson”.  And today…today is the end of an era as Nelson Mandela passed away.  He was not always who he was.  Early on, he was brash and impatient and even prone to violence.  Born into an almost aristocratic clan, he was brought up to despise the white people that shunned him.  But as he grew, he realized that his calling was not to hate the whites but to hate the system, the establishment, that separated him from them.  And so he began a lifetime journey of change, speaking something that the world had not ever heard, speaking something that most did not want to hear, speaking something that could shatter and take down what we knew.  Shhhh!  Really, you’re causing problems.  Really, you’re truly a troublemaker.

The world is gathering as I write this, standing in moments of quiet silence, honoring Mandela, remembering, standing on the edge of a new era, hoping that the change will continue and on some level afraid that it will.  Mandela’s beginning would carry him through years of imprisonment from which would emerge one of strength and calm with a playful bend and a resolve toward non-violent revolution.  The world is better because he walked among us.  His legacy is one of peaceful resistance, one of change.

Although his life was cut short earlier on, I’m not convinced that John was that unlike Mandela.  (OK, probably Mandela didn’t eat locusts.  I don’t know.)  In very different ways and in very different contexts, both stepped forward and banged the door of the establishment, daring to disturb the sleeping giants of acceptable society and insert themselves as instruments of change.  Both were troublemakers, shaking the walls that had been so carefully built around their lives, refusing to be silent in the face of injustice, in the face of the acceptance of that which flies in the face of change.

Perhaps Advent is the time that calls troublemakers.  Perhaps it is a time that makes us uncomfortable enough to think about another way of being, another way of doing things, another way of life.  Perhaps it is that for which we are getting ready in this long season of waiting.  At the end of the day, most tributes would pray that Nelson Mandela rest in peace.  Do you think that’s really what he would want?  I think that he would much rather that we keep shaking the walls and banging the doors and knocking down those systems that are unjust and unfair.  I think he and John would both be much more pleased with us becoming troublemakers, with our awakening.  Thanks be to God!

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the  ways in which you yourself have altered. (Nelson Mandela)

Reflection:  Where do you need to be a troublemaker?  Where are you called to be an instrument of change?

Grace and Peace,






Well, it’s about that time!  TEN MORE D AYS!!! 20% OFF ONE DAY ONLY!!!  FREE SHIPPING TODAY ONLY!  FIRST 100 CUSTOMERS RECEIVE A FREE ______________ [I don’t know, just fill in the blank!]  The truth is, we are frenzied!  We live at a frenzied pace with which, truth be known, none of us can keep up.  I think about my last couple of days.  I made cheesecakes on Monday night for a staff party.  Tuesday night, the fully Type A in me made a list of what I needed to do in the next ten days.  Really?  A list? Last night I talked to a friend on the phone for way too long, which means the list is already thrown way off.  And today? Well, first of all, I found out late in the day that google had somehow  “mediated” my post from today, which means I had to TELL it that it was not spam. (OK, really, would I “spam” myself?)   I think it’s just a conspiracy to keep us from dancing!  (Anyway, sorry about that!)

But, think about it–we’re probably not the first people on the planet to live frenzied.  Think back–“Joseph, you’ll need to spend the next few days and take off from your carpenter’s job and pop over to Bethlehem to pay this new tax that we’ve concocted.  We hope that works for you. Oh?  Your wife is about to go into labor?  And, really, she is birthing the salvation of the world, the Son of the God, the Messiah?  Well, that’s great, but you still need to pay your taxes on time or we can garnish your wages or take your house or throw you into once of those new Roman prisons.”  And so they went–Mary and Joseph, supposedly on a donkey or a mule or something of the like.  They arrived in Bethlehem.  But apparently everyone had gotten the same notice.  Do you believe all this traffic?  Why didn’t we make a reservation?  (Oh, really, Joseph?  What were you thinking?) Where is that first century Groupon when you need it?  Mary, I know this is hard.  I PROMISE that I will find a place for us to spend the night.  You’re WHAT?  NOW?  Are you kidding me? 

We all know the story.  There would be no room.  There would be frenzy.  And so we made do.  We took what we could get–a sort of back room filled with hay and cast-off blankets.  It was filled with animals cowering from the cold.  And there Jesus was born into the frenzy of the world.  Truth be known–there was never calm but there was always peace.  But the point is that God still came–came into the frenzy of the world.  God does not wait until everything is calm and together.  God does not come because you have all the decorations up (I think most of mine will again stay packed away in storage); God does not come because you finally have all the gifts wrapped; and God does not come because the world is ready, because the world is at peace. God just comes, frenzy and all.  And all we have to do is put on our dancing shoes!
In this season of Advent, give yourself the gift of not having to have everything perfect, of not bowing to frenzy.  Give yourself the gift of peace!

Grace and Peace,