Advent – Week 3

3 ARCWP Women Priest’s share their Advent Reflections…*

Rev. Janet Blakeley, ARCWP Priest

First, the person of John the Baptist, and then, the people who listened to him.

John was probably not what you would call an attractive man. He didn’t want to live “in society” – i.e., with his family or friends and neighbors. For his own reasons, he chose to live a solitary life in the desert.That meant that when the sun was too hot, he sought shelter in a cave. When he was hungry, he ate what was as hand. (According to Scripture that would have been locusts and honey – although a Lebanese guide taught us that “locusts” did not refer to insects – a good source of protein! – but to a fruit by the same name. When his clothes wore out, he covered himself in animal skins. Had he tried to come back to the city like this, people might have run away, or thrown rocks at him. Still – he had his reasons.
When I spent some time with this strange man, as you would sit with your own shadow side, I found something truly wonderful in him. It was an overwhelming desire to get down to basics – to leave ordinary distractions and occupations behind – in order to be able to recognize in this life the voice that spoke to him, the force that moved him, the fire in his heart. That same thing drives me to want to be unattached from everything in order to see clearly, hear clearly, love singularly. The difference between us is that he arrived at that in this life. It seems as if we must wait until God lifts us out of this material world and brings us to a purely spiritual state. Not until then will we be able to see our God face to face.
The people who listened to John did not jump into their cars and take a Sunday drive out to the desert to get a glimpse of this strange phenomenon.Instead, they rose well before dawn to escape the heat of the day, and walked from wherever they were to the place where John was to be found. It took a sizeable effort to do that. But that effort was commensurate with their desire to know if his message might be true. The people of Israel had waited generation after generation for the Messiah to come. Was this the one of whom the prophets spoke? Of whom John was speaking? It mattered enough to trek out to the wilderness to hear him.
We realize that some heard the message and felt they recognized the one who was to come, and others did not. At this point we can all say, with gratitude, that God has never seemed overly interested in our getting things “right” but more in wanting us to love him/her and each other. And at that point of recognition (or not), God went smoothly on loving each person there.
I did wonder if the people sitting or standing around listening had any awareness of the huge step they might or might not take. Those who did see Jesus as the Messiah were unwittingly stepping off into the unknown and starting what in time would become a paradigm shift in the world! Those who did not were maintaining the foundations of our faith so that we might not lose sight of its essential elements. And God loved them all!
Remembering that might help us in our era. We, too, stand at a stepping off place. Many of us in this sanctuary have already taken the first big step away from the institution that formed us. We are looking at where to go next, and how far we dare to go. Some have suggested that we must throw it all away in order to move on to what awaits us. But that seems not in keeping with the way we have evolved, which is systemic – not throwing away the past but adding to it, expanding it, enriching it. The problem is in identifying what is essential to keep. We can test things by the seemingly eternal signs of the presence of God, the symbols of Advent – does that which I am considering bring Peace? Love? Joy? If so, we can feel secure in moving ahead.
Questions for reflection:
Can you identify with the Jews who wondered if Jesus was truly the Messiah?
Do you experience yourself as standing at a crossroads or “on the edge” of something new?
What guides you?

Rev. Kathie Ryan, ARCWP Priest

Today is Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete means rejoice-so today we are reminded to rejoice. We go from lighting purple candles to a pink one. I looked up the origin of Gaudete Sunday and found the Roman Catholic Church established Gaudete Sunday to give us a little break from our “penitential exercises.” My immediate thought was “what penitential exercises?” Let’s hold that idea for a moment and go back to the readings- in the readings there is expectation, anticipation, and hope.
In the Isaiah reading we hear: and then the desert will bloom with abundant flowers, creation will sing with joyful song, feeble hands will be strengthened, knees will be firm, and then just like our gospel reading we hear the blind will see and the lame will walk. Matthew adds more-the lepers will be cleansed, the deaf will hear, the dead will rise and the poor will have the good news.
But there is a catch-all of these expectations, anticipations and hopes that are described in the readings are already happening. The desert has and is always blooming, creation is always singing. Long before Jesus there were many stories in Hebrew scriptures of the lame walking, and the blind seeing. That tells us something important– there is always reason to rejoice yesterday, today and tomorrow. We have to wake up, see and be aware. Rejoice!
Henri Nouwen, defined joy as “the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing-sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death-can take that love away.” The key to rejoicing is to know you are unconditionally loved.
Remember according to the RCC we are supposed to be taking a break from our penitential exercises? Maybe not penitential but there is an exercise that needs attention. I think the most important exercise and an exercise we all struggle with– is to remind ourselves and each other that we are unconditionally loved. Believing, knowing and living as if we are unconditionally loved is not easy. You and I put that unconditional love into action when we take care of one another, when we are kind to those who are not kind to us, when we feed the hungry, when we take care of the poor, when we take care of creation. And when we really accept that we are personally, individually unconditionally loved. The real message of Gaudete Sunday is to be aware of unconditional love and to love one another and all of creation, today, tomorrow and always.
What did you hear and see in these scripture readings today? How will they change you? What will it cost?

Rev. Patty Zorn, ARCWP Priest

Prepare Ye The Way..

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

John the Baptist opened the door to the broken, the unwanted; preparing them to meet the Light of the World…

 “I send my messenger ahead of you to prepare your way before you.”(Mt. 11)

Jesus said, “I AM the Way.” He is reminding us to be patient; persevere quietly, as we move closer to the time of the new birth, “Persevere patiently under hardship.” (Ja. 5)

Son Day for Sunday Message:

 “When you don’t let go and veer off the path, the road will become bumpy.” I know this has been a difficult journey for you, but the visibility is improving. The road ahead will be a bit easier as long as you continue to follow me and the Way.

This week, we are called to reflect upon ‘Preparing the Way” and what this means for each of us.

 “A highway will be there and it shall be called the Holy Way.” (Is. 35)

*Gospel Reading: Matthew, Chapter 11