Monday, December 3, 2007
The Sermon I Wished I had Preached
There are some Mondays when I realize that I really didn’t like what I said in the Sunday sermon and wish that I could revise or edit after the fact. It wasn’t anything that I said, that I regret. It is all the things that I didn’t say about Advent.
The first Sunday of Advent is about being prepared, it is about waking up to the fact that Christ is coming into our lives at any moment and are we prepared for his coming? Bach’s Wachet Auf , “Sleeper’s Wake” is the cantata for the first week of Advent. It reminds us that the Christian’s life is not one that can be lived in a stupefied state. The Christian life must be lived in anticipation of Christ’s appearance at each moment.
Now, Monday is my day to sleep in. It is a day that I would like to forget that there is a world out there. But faith reminds me that I may be able to sleep in but I am never allowed to forget that God has created a world in which I live, move and have my being. I have an obligation to God to live in that world with responsibility. Advent reminds me of this obligation.
In his little book Jewish Spirituality for the Christian, Harold Kushner tells of the Jewish understanding of spiritual responsibility. He says that God made the world good. If it gets messed up by human sin, it is our responsibility to clean it up. It is a different look at what salvation means from the Christian’s sense that Christ has done all the cleaning up after us. It isn’t quite Pelagian but it does put the responsibility on humanity to clean up after ourselves. I like it. It seems much more consistent with good mental health than the kind of paternalistic salvation that has been articulated by some since the 4th century.
God has given humanity all that it needs to exist. I have been given all that I need: intellect, responsibility and will to be about not only providing for myself, but providing for others. My salvation is not dependant upon it, but it is my responsibility to interact with God’s creation. I may not be a hermit. (This does not negate the call of one to be a hermit; it just means that “I” may not be a hermit for the sake of the kingdom.) Few of us are called to that ministry.
The world needs my attention. It needs my being awake to those around me and to my God for the health of society. It has needed the sounds I have made to remind people of their obligation to one another, the Church and God. It is the Watchman’s obligation to call out alarm to the community when danger approaches. This is not the ministry of just those who see themselves as prophet. It is the call of all who are called to the ordained ministry.
The schism that is facing the Episcopal Church may just be the call from God that says that danger is near. It may be the Watchman who stands at the gate to wake us to a kind of clerical solemnence that says that we can move on without recognizing our sinfulness in how we have dealt with colleagues. We as clergy have also ignored the needs of the laity of our churches because we would rather be asleep to their needs. We have often been willing to snooze while fellow clergy are swept away rather than help colleagues with problems in their parishes. Clergy have been deaf to the cries of those having to deal with the failure of modernity simply because it is easier to teach quaint myths rather than expand on the abiding truths of our faith.
If there is a failure in the Episcopal Church it has been with the well-educated clergy being unwilling to address the historical-critical method of biblical scholarship with their flock, or even with themselves, so that their faith can address the post-modern era. If anything, we as clergy are being considered irrelevant simply because we are not willing to help folks adjust their faith from that of believing in facts to having a relationship with the God who provides all that is needed.
Advent is the time to Wake Up. It used to be a time of penitence. The purple colors in our churches called for a fast. But whatever our practice for the Advent season, it is time to repent from our mistakes and a call to right our wrong-doing for the sake of the Kingdom. Now is the time, the night is far spent. Wake Up, Church.