Thursday, December 13, 2012

December 9 - ADVENT 2 Reflection by David


Those of you who know me will know that I tend to come at things from the slant. Like Emily Dickinson the poet in her poem, "Tell All the Truth":
Tell all the truth but tell it slant,
Success in circuit lies,
Too bright for our infirm delight
The truth's superb surprise;

As lightning to the children eased
With explanation kind,
The truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind.
Part of why we light Advent candles one week at a time in worship and some of us in our homes, or the candles of Hannukah one at a time, is for the same reason that Dickinson implies. The truth of light all at once blinds us. The truth needs to come on slowly; we each need to appropriate the truth of our lives, the truth of how to live ethically in the world, the truth of how to be in community with each other and with the natural world, the truth of how are our lives impact one another. These truths we discover in stages like candles in a circle being lit.
But there's also the idea of coming at things from the slant in this poem. Emily Dickinson used the image often, the idea of slant. My nature seems to be to see things, not straight forwardly but from the side. That's why I like the stories of Jesus; they come at things from the side. Love may be the motivation, but we need to meet the challenges of life by seeing things a little from the slant, a little from the side, a little from a different angle.
John the Baptist also comes at the truth and tells it slant. He comes out of the wilderness inviting a response, an ethical response. He shocks, perhaps, and speaks vividly of how God has called him.
Here's an example of what I mean, a musical presentation of John's words, which are a quote from the prophet Isaiah...
   {Quincy Jones 1992 (Hanael's Messiah–A Soulful Celebration) "Every Valley Shall Be Exalted"}
When the piece began, you, like the first time I heard this, likely thought, "Well, this is another rendition of the traditional Handel's Messiah." My point is simply that with the change and shift to rap, R&B, and soul, it asked us to consider the text, the words, differently. Instead of what we were expecting, there was something different that asked us to pay attention.
John the Baptist asks of us the same thing. The words John used were new to the people who first heard the poetic words back in 500 Before the Common Era, "Prepare the Way. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up and the rough place made a plain..." These words became beloved of the people for they implied a sense of comfort and that God was with them in the journey of their lives, even in the wilderness. And then John used these same words of comfort as words of challenge to live in right relationship with others, to live lives of generosity and peace. John, after speaking these words, went on to say, "If you have two coats, give one away to someone who doesn't have one. Do not embezzle money from others. Do not intimidate others into doing your bidding."
John helps us prepare for the coming of Christ by inviting us to tell the truth slant, to see the world from the side, to open ourselves to see the light in a new way and thereby see who is left out, who is excluded. If Christmas is about the coming of light into the world, the light of peace and justice and the light of love for ALL, Advent is our invitation to pay attention, to be intentional in our living, to be deliberate about love and compassion.
Advent is our invitation, today spoken through John the Baptist, to prepare our hearts like we prepare this créche, for the coming of Christ anew; it is always a process of beginning again. The light is already here, but we intentionally, in this season, open ourselves again and again and again to experience the light of hope, love, peace and compassion.
Music, as we all know, is one way that we do that. Thank you Allison and Corazon for gracing our worship this morning with your gift of music. It helps us all be open to gift of love. And thanks to Quincy Jones for that new rendition of Handel's Messiah! And thank God for John the Baptist, who helps us prepare for the Christ's coming with a renewed sense of hope and love. Amen.
Those of you who know me will know that I tend to come at things from the slant. Like Emily Dickinson the poet in her poem, "Tell All the Truth": Tell all the truth but tell it slant, Success in circuit lies, Too bright for our infirm delight The truth's superb surprise; As lightning to the children eased With explanation kind, The truth must dazzle gradually Or every man be blind. Part of why we light Advent candles one week at a time in worship and some of us in our homes, or the candles of Hannukah one at a time, is for the same reason that Dickinson implies. The truth of light all at once blinds us. The truth needs to come on slowly; we each need to appropriate the truth of our lives, the truth of how to live ethically in the world, the truth of how to be in community with each other and with the natural world, the truth of how are our lives impact one another. These truths we discover in stages like candles in a circle being lit. But there's also the idea of coming at things from the slant in this poem. Emily Dickinson used the image often, the idea of slant. My nature seems to be to see things, not straight forwardly but from the side. That's why I like the stories of Jesus; they come at things from the side. Love may be the motivation, but we need to meet the challenges of life by seeing things a little from the slant, a little from the side, a little from a different angle. John the Baptist also comes at the truth and tells it slant. He comes out of the wilderness inviting a response, an ethical response. He shocks, perhaps, and speaks vividly of how God has called him. Here's an example of what I mean, a musical presentation of John's words, which are a quote from the prophet Isaiah... {Quincy Jones 1992 (Hanael's Messiah–A Soulful Celebration) "Every Valley Shall Be Exalted"} When the piece began, you, like the first time I heard this, likely thought, "Well, this is another rendition of the traditional Handel's Messiah." My point is simply that with the change and shift to rap, R&B, and soul, it asked us to consider the text, the words, differently. Instead of what we were expecting, there was something different that asked us to pay attention. John the Baptist asks of us the same thing. The words John used were new to the people who first heard the poetic words back in 500 Before the Common Era, "Prepare the Way. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up and the rough place made a plain..." These words became beloved of the people for they implied a sense of comfort and that God was with them in the journey of their lives, even in the wilderness. And then John used these same words of comfort as words of challenge to live in right relationship with others, to live lives of generosity and peace. John, after speaking these words, went on to say, "If you have two coats, give one away to someone who doesn't have one. Do not embezzle money from others. Do not intimidate others into doing your bidding." John helps us prepare for the coming of Christ by inviting us to tell the truth slant, to see the world from the side, to open ourselves to see the light in a new way and thereby see who is left out, who is excluded. If Christmas is about the coming of light into the world, the light of peace and justice and the light of love for ALL, Advent is our invitation to pay attention, to be intentional in our living, to be deliberate about love and compassion. Advent is our invitation, today spoken through John the Baptist, to prepare our hearts like we prepare this créche, for the coming of Christ anew; it is always a process of beginning again. The light is already here, but we intentionally, in this season, open ourselves again and again and again to experience the light of hope, love, peace and compassion. Music, as we all know, is one way that we do that. Thank you Allison and Corazon for gracing our worship this morning with your gift of music. It helps us all be open to gift of love. And thanks to Quincy Jones for that new rendition of Handel's Messiah! And thank God for John the Baptist, who helps us prepare for the Christ's coming with a renewed sense of hope and love. Amen.

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