This is the first Sunday of Advent 2019 and a change to Year A in the Lectionary. It is a new year on the Christian calendar. Do not expect it to be about Christmas yet. That is a Hallmark thing. Advent is a season of waiting. Waiting for God’s Kingdom and Matthew makes it sound like an ominous event. One will be taken and the other swept away when the Son of Man comes to the Kingdom. Matthew likens this event to Noah’s flood, a new creation. So don’t be caught sleeping. Be watchful! Be alert! This is no stocking filled, pretty paper event. God’s Kingdom is serious business. It will come about because we will share with others our belief in Jesus as the Son of God. A serious sharing that is quiet, not preachy; and love-filled, not syrupy. It is compassionate, firm and resilient. It does not look romantic. We are preparing for the tough work of sharing the word about the coming of God’s Kingdom.
Well, it is time to say “aloha” to Luke for three years. I choose “aloha” for it is a greeting of good-bye and hello. It acknowledges a change in relationship only and not a permanent one. I like Luke because he seems to give me down to earth guidance about loving my neighbor in graphic ways that I need to be aware of if I am to make a judgment about the treatment of immigrants, of allies, of partners, of myself. I learn about the kingdom of God for now as well as the future and am able to share in the visualization of the NOW if not for the future. Luke is concerned with the poor, the disenfranchised, the excluded, the exile, the Gentile, and while there are no easy answers to these questions, there are directions that will ease the pathos of the sufferer and direct us toward inclusion of the other. These are some of the important things that I will miss in our liturgical life together. What will you miss? Luke is Saint Peter’s gospel – our tutoring mission, our food pantry, our turkey gift at Thanksgiving, our clothing drive, our medical mission to Guatemala. While we do other things and not all of us do these things, all of us support these things and they define. We are concerned that people are fed and well and clothed. We are concerned that people are included. That is why I am sorry to see Luke go even for now.
The beginning of the new Christian year is the first Sunday of Advent which, this year, is December 1, 2019. At this time that we will begin reading the Gospel of Matthew, Year A on the Lectionary Cycle. We will not hear from Luke for two more years for we will have to make our liturgical trip through Matthew and Mark (with a whole lot of John) before getting back to Luke. The theory, as I understand it, is that by doing this we will hear the story from three different authors who all share a common source. These three gospels are known as the Synoptic Gospels or the Synoptics. They are taken in the order of appearance the scriptures and not in the order of age, Mark is the oldest. Mark offers many portions of material found in the other two gospels as well as sharing a common source with them. John does not share in this material and is written for a different reason and type of audience so his gospel does not figure into the cycle of years. I have some favorite stories and a favorite Gospel. Do you? Which ones and why? Do you think that the writers told their accounts to different audiences? Do you think they were telling the same story? Why do some gospels include some very important stories and others make no mention of them?
This is the week that almost all young people and young-at-heart, no matter the age, look forward to in the fall. It is Halloween week, sometimes known as All Hallows Eve. The time that we dress up in all manner of costumes and go play trick-or-treat for candy or other sweets. In the Middle Ages, it was a time to frighten away the evil spirits before All Souls Day, the day following All Hallows Eve. Today the two days have become separated even if we remember All Souls Day (The Celebration of All the Faithful Departed) in our liturgical year. Chasing away the evil spirits would probably keep the meaning of All Hallows Eve in our minds, but I am not aware of it having the sweets that come with Halloween. Let us try to remember that the two days do belong together. We have a reason to celebrate our forefathers, and if most are like mine, a little sweetness would go well with them. Evil spirits will run in the face of kindness and love. Sweetness is not the same thing, but it does soften the heart some. Fond memories of our predecessors, let us let go of what we held against them and sets us right with them.
The monks have a form of prayer that involves the use of muscled and the production of air to make a sound. They chant prayers. That we are fascinated by this as is shown by our support of the music production business. We listen to Gregorian chants and Hildegard of Bingen or to Bob Dylan and The Beatles or David Bowie and Bruce Springsteen. We do not listen just once we listen until we know the words and music. They become a part of us. We know it so well that our muscles feel it. We are lost in it, we for the moment are suspended in our co-production of the music in to a world of mystery. Liturgically we sing our prayers when we sing the Psalm and the Amens and the Alleluias. There are other prayers that we sing throughout the year. Somehow when our bodies are actively involved in the meditation we reach a state of suspension that can be an unknowing. This state of being becomes more likely when we sing the phrases over and over again. This prayer.